"Many parents of children with autism are already obtaining and using oxytocin nasal spray with their child, and clinical trials of the spray's effects are underway all over the world. Oxytocin has been touted as a possible new treatment, but its effects may be limited," [Psychology] Professor Mark Dadds says.
Autism is a complex condition of unknown cause in which children exhibit reduced interest in other people, impaired social communication skills and repetitive behaviours.
To determine its suitability as a general treatment Professor Dadds' team conducted a randomised controlled clinical trial of 38 boys aged between seven and 16 years of age with autism. Half were given a nasal spray of oxytocin on four consecutive days.
The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
"We found that, compared to a placebo, oxytocin did not significantly improve emotion recognition, social interaction skills, repetitive behaviours, or general behavioural adjustment," says Professor Dadds.