Research ArticleAutism

Exogenous and evoked oxytocin restores social behavior in the Cntnap2 mouse model of autism

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Science Translational Medicine  21 Jan 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 271, pp. 271ra8
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3010257

Going Social

Oxytocin—a hormone that promotes mothering, trust, and social bonding in animals—seems a likely treatment for the social isolation of individuals on the autism spectrum, but tests in humans have generally proved disappointing. To delve deeper into how oxytocin affects autism symptoms, Peñagarikano et al. created a mouse mimic of one type of genetic autism, cortical dysplasia and focal epilepsy (CDFE) syndrome, by deleting the gene that is mutated in human patients. Unlike normal mouse-loving mice, CDFE mice were asocial, showing no preference for other mice over objects, but this deficit was reversed by giving them oxytocin. Further, revving up the sluggish production of their own oxytocin in the paraventricular nucleus in the hypothalamus also improved sociability. Most hopeful for patients, the authors found that giving young CDFE mice multiple doses of oxytocin just after birth produces a long-lasting improvement in oxytocin brain levels and sociability.

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