Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Could oxytocin be useful in treating psychiatric disorders?

Date:
September 16, 2013
Source:
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Summary:
The hormone oxytocin could play a role in treating psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, according to new research.

The hormone oxytocin could play a role in treating psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, according to a review article in the September Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

Among other biological effects, oxytocin is "an important regulator of human social behaviors," according to the research review by Dr David Cochran of University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues. They discuss the preliminary but encouraging evidence that oxytocin could be a useful treatment for certain mental health diagnoses -- particularly those involving impaired social functioning.

A Common Hormonal Factor in Psychiatric Disorders? Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone, probably most familiar for its role in initiating labor and breast milk flow in pregnant women. But a growing body of evidence in animals and humans shows that it also plays an important role in regulating social behaviors. In their review, Dr Cochran and colleagues found evidence of oxytocin's involvement in "social decision making, evaluating and responding to social stimuli, mediating social interactions, and forming social memories" in humans.

Based on these effects, researchers have suspected that oxytocin may be a common factor in certain psychiatric disorders. The reviewers analyze the evidence for oxytocin's involvement in specific disorders -- including some early research on oxytocin as a potential treatment for these conditions.

Some studies have reported a "dysfunction in oxytocin processing" in children (although not necessarily adults) with autism and related disorders. There's also evidence that genes affecting oxytocin -- such as the oxytocin receptor gene, OXTR -- may be involved in the development of autism spectrum disorders.

Possible Treatment Benefits in Autism and Schizophrenia Based on initial trials, oxytocin may one day "be a useful treatment agent for improving some aspects of social cognition and for reducing repetitive behaviors" in patients with autism spectrum disorders, although studies are only in the early stages to fully evaluate clinical effectiveness. The authors discuss a case report of significant reductions in autism severity with oxytocin, and the only controlled trial of long-term oxytocin treatment showed improvement in identifying emotions and quality of life measures.

Studies of oxytocin's relationship to schizophrenia have yielded conflicting results -- associations with oxytocin-related genes don't appear as strong as for autism. Nevertheless, some studies have suggested that oxytocin might be a helpful treatment for patients with schizophrenia, with trials reporting encouraging effects on schizophrenia severity and on social cognition.

Because oxytocin is involved in responses to stress, studies have also looked at its potential role in mood disorders and anxiety disorders. For example, there's evidence that oxytocin may be involved in beneficial responses to electroconvulsive therapy for severe depression.

But so far, there's little evidence that oxytocin is a useful treatment for anxiety and depression. The same is true for early studies of oxytocin for treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

On balance, "The evidence suggests a role of oxytocin in the pathophysiology of some psychiatric disorders, particularly those characterized by impairments in social functioning," Dr Cochran and coauthors write. "However, the preliminary nature of the currently available data precludes a clear understanding of the exact nature of this role."

Thus despite some promising results, it's much too early to conclude that oxytocin is a helpful treatment for autism, schizophrenia, or any other psychiatric disorder. Even if the evidence were stronger, there's currently no reliable way of giving oxytocin treatment so that it gets to the brain in a predictable way. Nasal administration seems to be the most promising alternative, but larger studies are needed to understand how it gets to the brain receptors necessary for its effects.

Meanwhile, researchers will continue their attempts to clarify oxytocin's role in psychiatric disorders and the effects of treatments targeting this essential hormone. Dr Cochran and colleagues conclude that "proper clinical trials are only recently being undertaken," which "should provide a better understanding of the extent and limitations of the clinical effects of externally delivered oxytocin."

###

About the Harvard Review of Psychiatry The Harvard Review of Psychiatry is the authoritative source for scholarly reviews and perspectives on a diverse range of important topics in psychiatry. Founded by the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry, the journal is peer-reviewed and not industry sponsored. It is the property of Harvard University and is affiliated with all of the Departments of Psychiatry at the Harvard teaching hospitals. Articles encompass all major issues in contemporary psychiatry, including (but not limited to) neuroscience, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, history of psychiatry, and ethics.

About Wolters Kluwer Health Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Serving more than 150 countries and territories worldwide, Wolters Kluwer Health's customers include professionals, institutions and students in medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy. Major brands include Health Language®, Lexicomp®, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Medicom®, Medknow, Ovid®, Pharmacy OneSource®, ProVation® Medical, and UpToDate®.

Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer had 2012 annual revenues of €3.6 billion ($4.6 billion), employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide, and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Follow our official Twitter handle: @WKHealth.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David M. Cochran, Daniel Fallon, Michael Hill, Jean A. Frazier. The Role of Oxytocin in Psychiatric Disorders. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2013; 21 (5): 219 DOI: 10.1097/HRP.0b013e3182a75b7d

Cite This Page:

Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. "Could oxytocin be useful in treating psychiatric disorders?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916103346.htm>.
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. (2013, September 16). Could oxytocin be useful in treating psychiatric disorders?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916103346.htm
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. "Could oxytocin be useful in treating psychiatric disorders?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916103346.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) — The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins