Effects of Prosocial Neuropeptides on Human Brain Function in Healthy Volunteers and Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders.

2014-08-27 03:14:58 | BioPortfolio



- Oxytocin and vasopressin are two hormones produced in the brain. Both hormones can influence activity in brain regions such as the amygdala that are involved in social and emotional processing. There is evidence suggesting that oxytocin and vasopressin may be implicated in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).


-.Here, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess the effects of oxytocin and vasopressin on brain activity in adult healthy volunteers and adults with ASD.


- Right-handed individuals between 18 and 40 years of age who either have been diagnosed with autism, Asperger's disorder, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), or are healthy volunteers.


- This study requires 3 outpatient visits to the NIH Clinical Center in addition to a screening visit. Each visit will last about 2.5 hours. Participants may not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages for 12 hours before each visit.

- During each visit, participants will receive a nasal spray that contains one of the following: oxytocin, vasopressin, or placebo. Participants will receive a different spray at each visit.

- After using the nasal spray, participants will have an MRI scan of the brain while performing tasks with social and emotional stimuli.

- After the MRI scan, participants will complete questionnaires about mood and reaction to the tasks, and will remain in the clinic until the effects of the study medication have worn off.

- Participants will be contacted 1 day after each MRI scan for follow-up purposes.


Objective: The goal of this protocol, broadly stated, is to evaluate the effects of the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin on the neural systems involved in social cognition and emotional processing in healthy volunteers and individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Study population: The research participants will be adult healthy volunteers and adults with ASD (ages 18-40 years).

Design: This will be a double-blind cross-over functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, requiring three visits in addition to a screening visit. At each visit, participants will receive an intranasal application of oxytocin, vasopressin, or placebo and will be scanned while performing social cognition tasks and tasks involving the processing of affective stimuli. Drug order will be randomized across participants in each group (healthy controls and individuals with ASD).

Outcome measures: The outcome measures will include both performance scores and reaction times (RTs) on the behavioral tasks and changes in blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) activation in the brain, in both healthy volunteers and patients with ASD. Our main brain region of interest will be the amygdala.

Study Design

Allocation: Randomized, Control: Placebo Control, Endpoint Classification: Pharmacokinetics/Dynamics Study, Intervention Model: Crossover Assignment, Masking: Double-Blind, Primary Purpose: Diagnostic


Autism Spectrum Disorders


Oxytocin, Vasopressin


National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
United States




National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2014-08-27T03:14:58-0400

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

Carrier proteins for OXYTOCIN and VASOPRESSIN. They are polypeptides of about 10-kDa, synthesized in the HYPOTHALAMUS. Neurophysin I is associated with oxytocin and neurophysin II is associated with vasopressin in their respective precursors and during transportation down the axons to the neurohypophysis (PITUITARY GLAND, POSTERIOR).

A nonapeptide hormone released from the neurohypophysis (PITUITARY GLAND, POSTERIOR). It differs from VASOPRESSIN by two amino acids at residues 3 and 8. Oxytocin acts on SMOOTH MUSCLE CELLS, such as causing UTERINE CONTRACTIONS and MILK EJECTION.

A nonapeptide that contains the ring of OXYTOCIN and the side chain of ARG-VASOPRESSIN with the latter determining the specific recognition of hormone receptors. Vasotocin is the non-mammalian vasopressin-like hormone or antidiuretic hormone regulating water and salt metabolism.

Wide continuum of associated cognitive and neurobehavioral disorders, including, but not limited to, three core-defining features: impairments in socialization, impairments in verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors. (from DSM-V)

Cell surface proteins that bind oxytocin with high affinity and trigger intracellular changes which influence the behavior of cells. Oxytocin receptors in the uterus and the mammary glands mediate the hormone's stimulation of contraction and milk ejection. The presence of oxytocin and oxytocin receptors in neurons of the brain probably reflects an additional role as a neurotransmitter.

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