SYDNEY, April 10 (UPI) — Australian researchers suggest a hormone may help treat social problems in those with autism.
Children with developmental difficulties diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorders often have a hard time recognizing emotion in others.
The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, found adolescents with autism — given a single dose each of the hormone or placebo via a nasal spray one week apart and asked to complete a facial expression task that measured emotion recognition — performed significantly better on the task when receiving the hormone.
The hormone oxytocin affects brain function and has been best known for facilitating labor, delivery and breastfeeding, but it also has been shown to be important in promoting trust, love and social recognition, the study said.
“It is also the first to show the benefits of oxytocin nasal spray in young people, suggesting potential for earlier intervention where there may be greater opportunity to improve development,” study author Dr. Adam Guastella of the University of Sydney said in a statement.
Guastella noted this was a relatively small study and warned it is too early to use oxytocin outside of supervised clinical trial research.
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