Intranasal vasopressin treatment for social impairments in children with autism

The neuropeptides arginine vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OT) regulate social behavior (e.g., social memory, emotion recognition) in animals and humans. Social impairments are a core feature of autism with no approved medications currently available. Single-doses of OT were recently shown to improve several complex social functions in people with autism. Although AVP improves social cognition and memory in neurotypical individuals, no previous studies have tested the effects of AVP administration in individuals with autism. Animal research has also shown that AVP administration in rodents, acting via V1a receptors, more selectively enhances male social behavior than does OT. Given that autism is a predominantly male-biased disorder, there is a clear need to test whether AVP improves social functioning in individuals with autism. In this FDA-approved clinical trial, we are investigating the efficacy of single-dose and repeated-dose intranasal AVP on social deficits in children with autism. This research has high potential to lead to the development of more effective treatments and earlier interventions for children with autism.