Oxytocin Spray May Aid Emotion Perception in ASD A nasal spray may help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) perceive others’ emotions. This finding, which may be an important first step for a potential drug intervention with autism, appears in a study from the University of Oslo published in Translational Psychiatry. People with ASD are generally less sensitive ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   August 01, 2017
Oxytocin Spray May Aid Emotion Perception in ASD
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Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   August 01, 2017
Oxytocin Spray May Aid Emotion Perception in ASD
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.22082017.17
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.22082017.17
This finding, which may be an important first step for a potential drug intervention with autism, appears in a study from the University of Oslo published in Translational Psychiatry.
People with ASD are generally less sensitive to social information, and their tendency to overlook social cues can affect their interactions with others. Oxytocin—a hormone produced by the hypothalamus known to be involved in childbirth and mother-child bonding—has been linked with improved social information processing in youngsters with ASD. The researchers tested the effects of oxytocin administered as a nasal spray.
Researchers, led by senior author Ole A. Andreassen, a professor at the University of Oslo, gave 17 adult men with ASD a low dose of intranasal oxytocin, a higher dose of intranasal oxytocin, or a placebo over three separate visits. After each spray administration, the participants were asked about the emotional intensity of a series of facial images.

Compared with the placebo spray, study participants rated faces as happier after the low-dose oxytocin spray.

Just like in previous research with neurotypical adults, the researchers found no evidence of social effects with the higher dose—which is often used in treatment trials—but did find the social effect with the lower dose in the adult men with ASD. Compared with the placebo spray, study participants rated faces as happier after the low-dose oxytocin spray.
Noting the resource-intensive nature of current behavioral treatments for social dysfunction in ASD, Andreassen noted that this research may be an important first step for a potential pharmacological intervention.
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August 2017
Volume 22, Issue 8