Ever wondered what causes that warm, fuzzy, calm feeling when you cuddle with someone you love? It’s at least partly due to a hormone called oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone.” It bonds romantic partners and families. And research suggests it might help those with autism overcome some of the social obstacles they face.
The most recent study, conducted in Australia, involved 31 kids on the spectrum. For five weeks, some were given a twice-daily dose of oxytocin nasal spray, while others were given a placebo. Parents of those in the experimental group noted that their children’s social behavior had improved; their anxiety had gone down, they were more likely to return social gestures, and they were more aware of social situations.
Researchers caution us not to get too excited just yet, however. The hormone helped some—but not all—symptoms of autism…and to a modest degree. And like most any medication, it didn’t work for everyone. It also needs to be tested over a longer period and draw in more participants to see if any dangers arise from it—other than the already-discovered side effects like constipation, thirst, and frequent urination.
Even so, there’s reason for cautious hope. Certain medications can help with behavioral concerns, sure, but when it comes to accredited clinical studies and scientific tests, no other medical interventions—aside from oxytocin injections—have been able to treat the social obstacles of autism. So the researchers who conducted this study, as well as others, are continuing to investigate the potential benefits of this hormone. We’ll see what comes of it!
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.