Bonding hormone may help treat autism

A hormone that plays a known role in the bonding of a breastfeeding mother and her baby may also prove to be an effective therapy for autism.

In a new study, researchers say that autistic patients who inhaled oxytocin were able to interact with others better during a game simulation and also paid greater attention to the expressions on the faces of people in a photograph. And therapeutic potential exists for both adults as well as children.

A common characteristic among people diagnosed with Asperger's and other autism spectrum conditions is a difficulty with eye contact and social interaction. And researchers had already noted that autistic children commonly have low levels of the hormone.

"Eye contact can be considered the first step of social approach," says Angela Sirigu of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience in Lyon, France. "In our study we show that oxytocin enhances eye contact because patients spent more time looking at the eyes."

- here's the story from Reuters