Note: Most Internet Explorer 8 users encounter issues playing the presentation videos. Please update your browser or use a different one if available.

A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Course of Oxytocin Nasal Spray to Treat Youth with Autism

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
A. J. Guastella1, S. L. Einfeld2, K. M. Gray3, N. Rinehart4, B. J. Tonge5, I. B. Hickie6, G. Alvares6, C. Keating7 and C. Cacciotti6, (1)University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, (2)Faculty of Health Sciences and Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW, Australia, (3)Monash University, Ferny Creek 3786, Australia, (4)Deakin University, Victoria, Australia, (5)Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash University, Clayton VIC, Australia, (6)Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, (7)Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
Background: A diagnostic hallmark of autism spectrum disorders is a qualitative impairment in social communication and interaction. Deficits in the ability to recognize the emotions of others are believed to contribute to this. There is currently no effective treatment for these problems. Recent advances in the field of social neuroscience suggest the hormone and neuropeptide oxytocin enhances social behavior across mammalian species. Research also suggests that the administration of oxytocin nasal spray improves theory of mind, trust and other aspects of social cognition in neurotypical humans and people diagnosed with autism. 

Objectives: The aim of this study was to conduct a randomized controlled trial of oxytocin nasal spray to treat social impairments found in youth diagnosed with autism. We aimed to determine whether oxytocin nasal spray would improve social interaction, social cognition, and reduce repetitive behavior, in comparison to a placebo nasal spray.  

Methods: This trial recruited 50 male participants aged between 12 and 18 who were diagnosed with autism. We assigned each of these individuals to receive either oxytocin (18 or 24 IU) or an identically matched placebo, twice per day over an eight week period in a double blind, between-subjects design.

Results: The complete results of the trial will be presented at this conference. As this trial is yet to be accepted for publication, we do not report results within this abstract. We will discuss results, moderating factors, and limitations of the current study at the time of presentation.

Conclusions: The results provide data on 50 patients with autism recruited into an oxytocin nasal spray treatment trial. This trial demonstrates whether oxytocin nasal spray improves social cognition and behavior in autism. It provides valuable data on the potential of a new treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

| More