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Oxytocin in the treatment of the social deficits associated to autism spectrum disorders
INTRODUCTION. The recent involvement of oxytocin in social behavior of animals and humans has motivated the study of its effects on the social behavior of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). AIMS. To review the current state of oxytocin studies concerning its therapeutic potential in treating social deficits of the ASD population, and to establish likely future directions to be taken by the studies in this field. DEVELOPMENT. Some studies have linked oxytocin to the pathophysiology of autistic disorders. Most studies that have administered oxytocin (mainly with intranasal administration of 24 IU) to ASD subjects have shown significant improvements in their social performance with acceptable safety parameters. However, there is controversial data as the outcome measures are widely dispersed, the samples are reduced and heterogeneous, and the treatment durations are different. The limitations related to the lack of understanding of the oxytocin’s action mechanisms and the symptomatic heterogeneity of ASD are hampering progress towards the establishment of oxytocin as a treatment of ASD patients. Recent studies suggest the investigation of the combination of the oxytocin treatment with social skills training, and the enhancement of endogenous secretion of oxytocin. CONCLUSION. The effects of oxytocin are promising regarding the treatment of social deficits in ASD individuals. Future studies should aim to facilitate understanding of the oxytocin’s ways of action and to establish the optimal treatment regime.
AutismOxytocinReviewSocial behaviorSocial cognitionSocial interactionTreatmentNeurología del Lenguaje y la ComunicaciónNeuropediatríaNeuropsicologíaTécnicas exploratorias