Oxytocin was administered intranasally to 17 children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder and brain activity changes were studied via functional MRI during judgments of socially (Eyes) and nonsocially (Vehicles) meaningful pictures. Oxytocin increased activity in a number of brain areas which included the striatum, middle frontal gyrus, medial prefrontal cortex, right orbitofrontal cortex, and left superior temporal sulcus. In the striatum, nucleus accumbens, left posterior superior temporal sulcus, and left premotor cortex, oxytocin increased activity during social judgments and decreased activity during nonsocial judgments. The authors suggest that oxytocin may affect the salience and hedonic evaluations of socially meaningful stimuli in children with autism spectrum disorder, and facilitate social attunement. These findings encourage further research on oxytocin and its use in enhancing social functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder.
Gordon I, Vander Wyk BC, Bennett RH, Cordeaux C, Lucas MV, Eilbott JA, Zagoory-Sharon O, Leckman JF, Feldman R, Pelphrey KA: Oxytocin enhances brain function in children with autism. PNAS [Epub ahead of print, December 2, 2013;