Oxytocin: The "Love Hormone" Might Also Help in Autism
A new study suggests oxytocin could benefit autistic kids. But is it ready for prime time?
But lately, oxytocin has been making headlines that seem too good to be true—most recently because of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that a single spray from a nasal inhaler enhanced areas of the brain involved in processing social information in 17 children with autism.
First studied for its role in childbirth and breastfeeding, oxytocin is at its core a reproductive hormone. Produced in the brain's hypothalamus, and secreted into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland, it triggers muscle contractions during labor. When mothers breastfeed, the hormone works to contract muscle cells around the nipple, causing the muscles to squeeze milk out of the glands and into the milk ducts, a process