According to a review article in the September Harvard Review of Psychiatry, the hormone oxytocin may play a role in autism treatment, as well as the treatment of schizophrenia. While the evidence is still in its preliminary stages, it is encouraging. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone, most known for its role in initiating labor and breast milk flow in pregnant women. The news is exciting for autism specialists and other mental health therapists who specialize in treating schizophrenia.
The growing body of evidence shows that oxytocin plays an important role in regulating social behaviors including social decision making, forming social memories and responding to social stimuli. Based on these initial trials, oxytocin may one day be able to be used to improve the lives of autistic people. While studies of its relationships with schizophrenia have yielded conflicting results, there is hope that oxytocin will one day help those patients as well. While much more research and testing will need to be done before any of that happens, this could be a positive step in the right direction towards the treatment of mental illness.