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Medical News & Perspectives |

Scientists Probe Oxytocin Therapy for Social Deficits in Autism, Schizophrenia

Bridget M. Kuehn
JAMA. 2011;305(7):659-661. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.117.
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Emerging evidence indicates that oxytocin plays an important role in human social interactions, and preliminary clinical studies suggest the hormone may help improve social functioning in individuals with autism or schizophrenia. But experts caution that much remains to be learned about oxytocin and its physiological effects before it is ready for clinical use.

Oxytocin has long been known to help facilitate mother and infant bonding. Research on the socially monogamous prairie vole has demonstrated that the hormone plays a much wider role in helping to establish social bonds among animals. The animal findings have led to studies in humans to assess how exposure to the hormone affects human interactions, including early clinical studies in individuals with social impairments related to such disorders as autism and schizophrenia.

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Studying the social interactions of prairie voles has led scientists to believe that oxytocin plays an important role in mediating social bonds. Preliminary clinical studies suggest the hormone might benefit individuals with disorders that involve social deficits.

(Photo credit: Todd Ahern, PhD/Emory University)

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