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Oxytocin improves attachment issues in people with autism

28.01.2020 13:04

Administering oxytocin to adult men with autism makes them more open to close emotional bonds with others – with positive long-term effects. These are the results of a study done by researchers at KU Leuven led by Branco Weiss Fellow Kaat Alaerts.

Oxytocin, often dubbed the ‘love hormone’, is known to promote social bonding. The researchers recruited 40 adult men with autism spectrum disorder to take part in their study. In a first stage they examined the amount of oxytocin produced by the participants themselves. The amount of oxytocin found in the subjects’ saliva was inversely related to their self-reported attachment issues. In a second stage of the research, the team examined the long-term effects of administering oxytocin through a nasal spray. This experiment produced remarkable results: the participants who had been given oxytocin for four weeks experienced positive effects until up to a year later.

Although oxytocin is being used in medicine today, this doesn’t mean it can quite soon be used to address attachment issues or to reduce repetitive behaviour in people with autism. “The findings we’re presenting today are the result of a first pilot study”, Kaat Alaerts says. “A lot of further research needs to be done before oxytocin can be used to treat people with autism.”

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