Oxytocin, the Social Affiliation Drug, Has Interesting Effects in Autism and Now Schizophrenia

January 20, 2011 · Posted in Potential Treatments 

facesIn 2007, investigator E. Hollander from Mt. Sinai published data indicating that intranasal oxytocin was associated with increases in target behaviors in patients with autism.

Now a study by David Feifel of the University of California, San Diego presented at the 65th Annual Scientific Convention of the Society of Biological Psychiatry showed that patients with schizophrenia showed improvement in symptomatology and increases in the recognition of positive facial affect after oxytocin was added to their antipsychotics regimen. Morris Goldman of Northwestern University reported that patients with schizophrenia, who often make mistakes assessing fear on facial emotion recognition tests, described fewer faces as fearful after receiving intranasal oxytocin.

Editors note: These new findings are built on the pioneering preclinical work of Tom Insel.  He found marked differences in oxytocin and its receptors in the brains of mountain voles (who are largely asocial) compared to prairie voles (who are highly social and form lifelong bonds with their mates).  Although these oxytocin findings have not yet produced a treatment for any psychiatric syndrome, they illustrate the potential of general scientific findings to inform new approaches to human illnesses.

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