, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 250–257

Autism and oxytocin: New developments in translational approaches to therapeutics

Review Article

DOI: 10.1016/j.nurt.2010.05.006

Cite this article as:
Green, J.J. & Hollander, E. Neurotherapeutics (2010) 7: 250. doi:10.1016/j.nurt.2010.05.006


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by dysfunction in three core symptom domains: speech and communication deficits, repetitive or compulsive behaviors with restricted interests, and social impairment. The neuropeptide oxytocin, along with the structurally similar peptide arginine vasopressin, may play a role in the etiology of autism, and especially in the social impairment domain. Oxytocin is a non-apeptide (i.e., it has nine amino acids). It is synthesized in magnocellular neurons in the paraventricular nucleus and the supraoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus and is released into the bloodstream by way of axon terminals in the posterior pituitary. Oxytocin is released both peripherally, where it is involved in milk letdown and the facilitation of uterine contractions, and centrally, where it acts as a neuromodulator along with arginine vasopressin. Here, we discuss relevant translational research pertaining to the role of oxytocin in social and repetitive behaviors and consider clinical implications. We also discuss current research limitations, review recent preliminary findings from studies involving oxytocin in autism spectrum disorder patient populations, and point to possible directions for future research.

Key Words

AutismASDoxytocintranslational modelrepetitive behaviorsocial behaviorsocial cognitionsocial functioningtherapeuticsarginine vasopressinepigenetic
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Copyright information

© Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Montefiore Medical CenterUniversity Hospital of Albert Einstein College of MedicineBronx