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Can Oxytocin Treat Autism?

February 19, 2015

Larry Young, PhD, says yes

Media Contacts

Lisa Newbern, 404-727-7709,

Dr. Young, who is Division Chief of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, William P. Timmie Professor in the Emory School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, Director of the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience at Emory and Director of the NIH Silvio O. Conte Center at Emory, believes oxytocin can treat autism, but he cautions more studies are needed.
In a “Perspective” in the current issue of Science, Dr. Young and his co-author Catherine E. Barrett, a postdoctoral researcher at Yerkes, say oxytocin is an exciting target for improving social function. Though research into oxytocin’s potential therapeutic applications is still in the early stages, the researchers recommend the path moving forward focus on parallel animal and human studies to detail the conserved effects of oxytocin on brain communication in response to social stimuli, and say animal research is critical for understanding precise mechanisms of oxytocin’s actions.
With estimates of 1 in every 68 children being affected by autism spectrum disorders, the researchers are hopeful increasing information on mechanisms of action from animal studies, optimizing current therapeutic paradigms and developing next-generation approaches to target the oxytocin system will lead to improving social function in autism spectrum disorders and other psychiatric disorders. Read Young and Barrett's full "Perspective" here.
This "Perspective" follows two recent stories about Dr. Young and his oxytocin-related research in the news:
“The Love Drug” appeared in The Huffington post Feb. 13
The Associated Press released a story about Dr. Young's research February 18 that has appeared in outlets worldwide.

The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.5 billion budget, 17,600 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,700 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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