The Role of Vasopressin in the Social Deficits of 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 currently not accepting patients for this trial.
For more information, please contact Robin A Libove, BS, 650-736-1235.
View full details