An oxytocin nasal spray has been proven beneficial in reducing social and behavioral impairments among autistic kids, a recent study has shown.
The findings, published on October 27 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, were revealed by a team of experts at the Brain and Mind Institute, from the University of Sidney, Australia.
Researchers analyzed the evolution of 31 autistic children, aged 3 to 8, for a period of 15 weeks. During a timespan of 5 weeks, the participants were administered two daily doses of a nasal spray which contained synthetic oxytocin.
It was the first time ever that experts conducted such a clinical trial meant to assess the potency, safety and tolerability of intra-nasal oxytocin, among young kids affected by autism.
The beneficial impact of this medication, which is commonly employed to induce labor in pregnant women, was analysed using traditional tests, measuring social responsiveness.
Overall, it was determined that such a treatment is actually highly effective in diminishing behavioral and emotional difficulties experienced by autistic children.
“We found that following oxytocin treatment, parents reported their child to be more socially responsive at home, and our own blind independent clinician ratings also supported improved social responsiveness in the therapy rooms”, declared Adam Guastella, associate professor at the Brain and Mind Center.
According to researchers, around a third of the participants made significant progress. For example, the kids who were administered oxytocin displayed more willingness to be part of a group, or to carry a conversation with others. They were also more talkative, vibrant and good-humored, and maintained eye contact more easily.
In addition, the medication proved to be well-tolerated by the subjects included in the trial. While there were minor side effects, such as constipation, urination and thirst, overall the benefits of this treatment far outweighed these tiny hassles.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tend to appear in early childhood, and include neurodevelopmental issues which can be signaled by repetitive and stereotypical patterns of behavior, as well as difficulties during social communication and interaction.
Some people who suffer from autism require constant support and assistance throughout their lives, in order to complete basis activities, whereas others are fully capable of carrying out tasks, similarly to their peers.
Around 1 in 68 children in the United States have autism and boys are more frequently diagnosed with this condition than girls, according to estimations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before, only cognitive behavioral therapy had been employed in order to curb the manifestations of autism, but this type of care is usually expensive and demanding, requiring around 40 hours of therapy sessions per week.
Moreover, the results aren’t always the expected ones, making this endeavor greatly taxing and frustrating at times.
Now, these promising and unprecedented findings show that there might in fact be some hope of providing effective medical treatment for combating social impairments associated with autism.
This way, health practitioners could combine classic therapies and social learning activities, with this simple intra-nasal medication, so as to address the potential deficits caused by this neurodevelopmental disorder with greater success.
Further research will be conducted by experts at the Brain and Mind Center, on a group of 120 autistic children younger than 12, in order to analyze the effects of oxytocin in greater depth.
So far, the study authors have discovered that this hormone has myriad of other benefits as well. For example, it improves memory, it heightens visual acuity and it also boosts emotion recognition, based on facial expressions.
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