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Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial of Vasopressin Treatment for Social Deficits in Children With Autism

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine are seeking participants for a study examining the effectiveness of vasopressin, a neuropeptide, in treating children with autism spectrum disorder. Difficulty with social interactions is characteristic of people with autism, who often have problems interpreting facial expressions or maintaining eye contact while talking with someone. There are currently no effective medicines available to treat social problems in individuals with autism. Neuropeptides, such as vasopressin and oxytocin, are molecules used by neurons in the brain to communicate with one another. Vasopressin is closely related to oxytocin, which is currently being tested as a treatment for autism, and has been shown to enhance social functioning in animals. Animal studies have shown that when the proper functioning of vasopressin is experimentally altered, animals develop a variety of social deficits, including impaired memory for peers and a reduced interest in social interaction. Researchers found that when vasopressin was administered to mice with a genetically induced form of autism, their social functioning improved. Vasopressin is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in humans, and has proved to be a successful treatment for some common pediatric conditions, including bedwetting. Similar to oxytocin, it also has been shown to improve social cognition and memory in people who do not have autism. The researchers will test the effects of vasopressin on social impairments in 50 boys and girls with autism, ages 6 to 12 years old. The study will last four weeks for each participant. Participants will receive either vasopressin or a placebo nasal spray. At the end of this phase of the study, those who received the placebo will have the option of participating in a four-week trial during which they will be given vasopressin. Stanford is the only site for the study. Participants do not need to live locally but will need to come to the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for study visits.

Stanford is now accepting new patients for this trial.



  • drug : Placebo
  • drug : Vasopressin

Phase: Phase 2


Ages Eligible For Study:

6 Years - 12 Years

Inclusion Criteria

- medically healthy outpatients between 6 and 12 years of age (cut off: 12 years and 11 months) - Intelligence Quotient (IQ) equal to or greater than 70 (Stanford-Binet) - Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) Total Score equal to or greater than 70 - ability to complete laboratory and cognitive testing - diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) based on expert clinical opinion and on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) - Clinical Global Impression (CGI) severity rating of 4 or higher - care provider who can reliably bring participant to clinic visits, provide trustworthy ratings, and interact with the participant on a regular basis - stable medications for at least 4 weeks - no planned changes in psychosocial interventions during the trial - no concurrent participation in any other clinical research trials - willingness to provide blood samples

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Contact information

Stanford University
School of Medicine
300 Pasteur Drive
Stanford, CA 94305
Robin A Libove, BS

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