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Inhaling Capacity to Connect: Oxytocin, Brain and Behavior

New research has found a that inhaling oxytocin decreased decision making time about non-verbal social information in autism spectrum disorder patients (ASD). Oxytocin, known as the cuddle hormone, exists in higher levels in mothers with newborn children and in couples who are connected and sexually active. It is believed to be the hormone that is most responsible for relationship bonding.

There have been questions about whether the lack of oxytocin has something to do with the difficulty that people with ASD have in making appropriate social responses. Research published in the December edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association has produced the first neurobiological evidence for oxytocin’s beneficial effects on social communication deficits for ASD.

In a double blind study internasal oxytocin enabled participants with ASD to make non-verbal social information judgments in significantly less time. The oxytocin also significantly increased the activity in the brain in the medial prefrontal cortex which has been known to be deficient in ASD. This study found a direct link between oxytocin, social response efficiency and brain activity.

This research furthers our understanding of the chemistry responsible for healthy social relationships. It validates the importance of oxytocin in making the brain capable of responding to social cues. Perhaps low “O” will one day be seen as more important for intimacy than low “T”?

Mitigation of Sociocommunicational Deficits of Autism Through Oxytocin-Induced Recovery of Medial Prefrontal ActivityA Randomized Trial ONLINE FIRST Takamitsu Watanabe, MD; Osamu Abe, MD, PhD; Hitoshi Kuwabara, MD, PhD; Noriaki Yahata, PhD; Yosuke Takano, MD, PhD; Norichika Iwashiro, MD; Tatsunobu Natsubori, MD; Yuta Aoki, MD; Hidemasa Takao, MD, PhD; Yuki Kawakubo, PhD; Yoko Kamio, MD, PhD; Nobumasa Kato, MD, PhD; Yasushi Miyashita, PhD: Kiyoto Kasai, MD, PhD; Hidenori Yamasue, MD, PhD  JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 18, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3181 


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