SYDNEY, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Young children with autism in a small study who were treated with the synthetic hormone oxytocin showed improvement in social, emotional and behavioral issues. It is thought to be the first effective drug treatment for social impairments associated with autism.
Behavioral therapy has been shown to help children with autism, however it can be time-consuming and costly.
"The potential to use such simple treatments to enhance the longer-term benefits of other behavioural, educational and technology-based therapies is very exciting," said Adam Guastella, an autism researcher at the University of Sydney, in a press release.
Researchers worked with 31 children with autism, giving them either an oxytocin or placebo nasal spray twice a day for five weeks. Compared to the placebo, researchers said more parents reported improvements in behavioral issues with children who were given oxytocin.
"We used some of the most widely used assessments of social responsiveness for children with autism," Guastella said. "We found that following oxytocin treatment, parents reported their child to be more socially responsive at home."
The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry.