A nasal spray concocted with the love hormone oxytocin may help open up the closed world of children with autism. According to researchers in the United States, kids on the spectrum will be able to deal with social situations with the chemical improving the responses of the brain to human expressions and less on usual things children with autism spectrum disorder are transfixed to..
The nasal spray with the hormone responsible for the loving bond between newborns and their mothers has not been formally endorsed by experts but brain scans in a recent study showed that it has an effect on autism patients.
Experts from the Yale School of Medicine published the the results of their study titled "Oxytocin enhances brain function in children with autism" in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is the first study to evaluate the impact of oxytocin on brain function in children with autism spectrum disorders," said lead author Ilanit Gordon of the of the Yale Child Study Center in a press statement.
During the study, the proponents gave 17 individuals with autism spectrum disorders aged between eight and 16.5 years either a placebo drug or the oxytocin nasal spray while engaged in tasks involving social judgment. The children were subjected to function MRI scan where brain imaging was performed while the individuals were looking at people with various facial expressions or looking at pictures of vehicles.
"We found that brain centers associated with reward and emotion recognition responded more during social tasks when children received oxytocin instead of the placebo. Oxytocin temporarily normalized brain regions responsible for the social deficits seen in children with autism. Our results are particularly important considering the urgent need for treatments to target social dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders," explained Gordon.
Oxytocin is a chemical that is naturally produced by the human body. The brain chemical has a vital role in developing trust and bonding between people. According to the authors, the oxytocin nasal spray may help autism patients with core social motivation.
While the latest study shows promise, earlier studies showed no significant effect of oxytocin on children with autism.
Based on statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 88 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It affects individuals regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Majority of children with autism do not have intellectual disability.