Oxytocin and Autism: Social Awareness Treatment And Positive Research

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Lately the news has been running a story from the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience in Lyon where Angela Sirigu reports those children diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome who inhale the hormone oxytocin were able to pay more attention to eyes and faces, and were more likely to understand social cues (like being ignored) in game simulations.  It was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during the mother-infant bonding process, usually the first social bonding that happens with children in their lives.  The research here identified the need for oxytocin in the system of those children with Asperger's to better identify socially with those around them.  The research was completed with 11 men and 2 women with Asperger's, and the control group was equally as large. 

The research is very interesting, because it identifies and treats a huge hurdle in the lives of those with high functioning Autism:  social awareness.  With the introduction of this hormone treatment, those with Asperger's (at least) can identify with their surroundings socially and more comfortably. 

Of course it requires a hormone inhaler, and hormone therapy can be dangerous if not properly metered and monitored.  There are potential risks to any hormone therapy, and we have yet to see if there are any long term dangers to taking Oxytocin for longer periods of time.  I'm hopeful that there will be no dangers to cancers and other problems that accompany many hormone therapies of other types, because I imagine a lot of parents will be jumping on the oxytocin bandwagon quickly and early. 

But keep in mind that this isn't a cure-all for Autism.  There are a lot of other problems that accompany Autism beyond social interaction.  Currently my son is working through his non-verbal issues, which have little to do with the social aspect of Autism.  So before we all think that we have found a "cure" (really just a treatment to manage Autism), let's take a step back and take the research for what it is:  a sign that there are potential treatments for a real medical disorder. 

Oh, and because it's a real medical disorder, that means insurance companies should cover Autism and it's therapies.