Clinical potential of oxytocin in autism spectrum disorder: current issues and future perspectives

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Abstract

The effects of oxytocin on social cognition and behavior have recently attracted considerable attention. In particular, oxytocin has been proposed as a novel therapeutic for psychiatric disorders with social deficits such as autism spectrum disorders. This review provides a brief overview of behavioral and neural responses to oxytocin manipulations in humans and animal models. Although the differences in findings between human and animal studies should be interpreted carefully, shared behavioral phenotypes have been recognized, such as social bonding, social responses, and recognition and usage of social cues. Previous literature suggests that the neural effects of oxytocin in humans and animals overlap in the prefrontal, limbic, and paralimbic cortices. Oxytocin-induced alterations in these regions may indicate a fundamental basis for how oxytocin modulates social behaviors and facilitate the discovery of new pharmaceutical targets for treating social deficits.

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