Intranasal oxytocin treatment for social impairments in children with autism
Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide implicated in a wide range of social behaviors including attachment bonds, emotion recognition, eye gaze to social cues, and memory for socially-relevant information. Social impairments are a core feature of autism, and emerging evidence suggests that OT biology may be dysregulated in individuals with autism. This FDA-approved clinical trial tests the efficacy of single-dose and repeated-dose intranasal OT administration to improve social functioning in children with autism. The primary outcome measure is social responsiveness. Secondary outcome measures include laboratory-based tests of social behavior and cognition. This study also seeks to identify factors that contribute to treatment efficacy, to identify patients most likely to benefit from oxytocin treatment. At present, existing pharmacotherapies target only associated features of autism, with no effective drug treatments for the social impairments. This research therefore has high potential to lead to the development of more effective treatments and earlier interventions for children with autism.