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Study finds possible risks in autism treatment

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Oxytocin is a natural hormone involved in bonding behavior, such as the attachment a new mother feels toward a baby, that some researchers are testing in children with social deficits such as autism spectrum disorders.

But a study in an animal model of bonding behavior found giving it long term could have the opposite effect.

Dr. Karen L. Bales, the vice chairwoman of psychology at the University of California-Davis, has been studying human bonding behavior and the science behind it using close animal models, such as prairie voles, which are monogamous.

Studies have found that at some doses oxytocin increases trust and social behavior, such as recognition of emotions, among those with autism.

Some clinical trials are testing it in those with autism, but it took Bales only an hour to call around and find three providers who were giving it to patients off-label to help treat social disorders.

“So it is out there, and it’s an engaging idea because it certainly is involved in social bonding,” said Bales, a former Augusta resident who attended St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School and Aquinas High School. “And there are all of these human studies now that show that if you just give one dose it increases trust and emotion recognition and all of this good stuff. But the bad part is that until now we didn’t have any long-term studies to see if the chronic effects are the same as the short-term effects.”

She treated prairie voles with chronic doses of oxytocin over essentially the adolescent period of their development, the same age the human trials are targeting.

Instead of the normal bonding behavior, the male voles in particular reduced the amount of time they spent seeking partners and did not pair up with females as much as they would normally.

It is particularly troubling that males would be adversely affected because human social attachment disorders tend to be more heavily male, Bales said. It should also sound a note of caution because of the time period involved, she said.

“We just always have to be really careful about what we’re doing with a developing brain,” Bales said.

She still needs to study the brains to find out exactly what changes might have occurred biologically, but it could involve a similar hormone called vasopressin.

It is very closely related chemically to oxytocin, and the two hormones can activate cell receptors for the other, but not always with the same effect, Bales said.

“Vasopressin, sometimes it has similar effects to oxytocin; sometimes it has quite diametrically opposed effects,” she said. “It can, for instance, increase aggression.”

The problem might also be the dosing. In human studies, different doses of oxytocin in schizophrenics had opposite effects on increasing or decreasing recognition of emotion.

Emory University researchers are testing a drug that helps elicit natural oxytocin production, which might prove to be a better approach, Bales said.

Though her research could give parents pause about using oxytocin on autism patients, Bales said she could understand why they were willing to try it.

“Parents are desperate for something that will help their child,” she said. “But you don’t want to make it worse.”

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msitua
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msitua 11/04/12 - 12:41 am
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"We have to be careful about

"We have to be careful about what we do to the developing brain....". Yet, it's ok to vaccinate with thimerosal(mercury) and not worry what we are doing to the developing brain. What does a psychologist know about autism anyway. Autism does not belong in the DSM because it is NOT a mental disorder. How dare these so-called "autism experts" make comments about what is safe and not safe for babies. For over 2 decades these experts cannot tell us anything new about autism-what causes it, how to cure it and how to stop the epidemic. They have all failed the autism community and that includes the gov't, doctors and the media. I happen to know lots of autism families that have used oxytocin very successfully. Of course parents will try a lot of possible things to help their children. Nobody else has done anything for us except our DAN(defeat autism now) doctors.
Maurine Meleck, North Augusta

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 11/04/12 - 07:07 pm
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Kindly calm down.

The medical community that you are so happy to malign is NOT disinterested in autism spectrum disorders, not at all. There simply is NOT any replicable, scholarly, peer-reviewed research that ties autism spectrum disorders to childhood vaccinations or any of the components in them, such as thimerosal.

Everyone would be thrilled if every possible cause of autism or Aspergers were discovered. Fragile X Syndrome is the most common genetic cause. How many autistic children that you know have been tested for that? And how many children do you know or know of were autistic with their first breath? There have been plenty of them as well.

The truth is, and your doctor in N.Aug. almost certainly will tell you this as well, autism spectrum disorders almost certainly arise from many and varied causes. It a child has a genetic sensitivity that makes thimerosal toxic for them, it will be discovered, eventually. Research is happening all over the world to bring such things to the light of day.

Shrillness and accusations, however, do no one any good. It tends to alienate the very people who might care about your child's problem and be trying to help him or her.

msitua
132
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msitua 11/04/12 - 09:54 pm
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Ah, but you are incorrect

There are plenty of studies showing a definite link between autism and vaccines. It's simply that the only ones you read and that are reported in the media are the studies that have been carried out by the very same persons that mandate vaccines, or have a lot to lose if the present vaccine program isn't followed. Even Dr. Wakefield's study have been replicated in 6 different countries already. You won't read that in the media though.
Actually the first thing that diagnosed autistic children are tested for is fragile X. Even over a decade ago, my grandson was tested for fragile X at MCG. It was the only thing they did right. I know thousands of people all over the US and outside-autism families-and yes they were all rtested for fragile X. Very few children are born with autism, but if so-the mother had a flu vaccine while pregnant or another reason. Prior to the 1980's it was 1 in 10,000 affected with autism. Perhaps a few of that number were born with it for unknown reasons.
I agree to you comment about a genetic predisposition. Yes, that is the gun and mainly vaccines are the trigger. And yes, I agree that are probably some other causes--like mercury pollution, GMO's, etc. but I still believe(as do many) that vaccines is number 1 cause.
Your other people or doctors might care about my grandchild or others with autism, but most conventional doctors don't know enough about autism to help so I don't pay much attention to them. WEe have our own DAN doctor and I know dozens of doctors who deal with autism patients only. Doesn't make much difference if I allienate uneducated doctors or whatever in regards to autism. The AAP has always lined up with gov't health officials and the well known mantra "We have no idea what causes autism, but we are sure it's not vaccines." I'd much rather have an "IN" with important politicians who can understand my side and help make changes.
Maurine Meleck, NA

Fiat_Lux
15913
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Fiat_Lux 11/05/12 - 12:22 am
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A genuine, legitimate connection

between vaccines and autism would have been reported in JAMA or the New England Journal of Medicine. Or in Science or Scientific American. It is such a big deal today that something that was solid evidence or at least a p>.01 would have been put out before the public with as much notice that it might have included a marching band.

But that hasn't happened, because the search is still going on. And it's still a bad, dumb idea to alienate people, even if you think you don't need them.

msitua
132
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msitua 11/05/12 - 09:31 am
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You obviously think

that the media is a separate entity from the government. Maybe once upon a time-but no longer. Big corporations, the government and the media are one in the same. Scientific American, the NEJ of Medicine-no difference. Drug companies anyone? Why is it that vaccine makers cannot be held accountable for injury from vaccines? and don't bring up the Vaccine Court that is able to toss out the majority of cases filed.
You obviously believe that they are all on your side to protect your health and the health of your children. Well, I don't --after 12 years into autism advocacy.

Maurine meleck

msitua
132
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msitua 11/05/12 - 09:34 am
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You would also be more believable

and genuine if you posted your real name.
M. Meleck

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 11/05/12 - 01:05 pm
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I honestly don't care if you believe me or not

I just deal with all kinds of paranoia among patients on a regular basis. The politics of the medical profession are almost certainly not what you believe them to be, and autism is relatively small potatoes in the greater scheme of things, though it clearly is the world for people who love one afflicted by it.

I still say that as the causes become elucidated through reliable, verifiable, scholarly research, they will be reported and treated with whatever therapies can be implemented. A moment's consideration should make it obvious that big pharma would fall all over itself trying to bring a new drug to market that would impact this disorder, especially with such a growing and belligerent demand.

They simply aren't willing to bet their bottom lines on something that 1) might not actually do any good, and 2) might actually cause harm, even in the long-term.

msitua
132
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msitua 11/05/12 - 11:56 pm
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You say you deal with paranoia and I deal with

ignorance on a daily basis-or shall we say the uneducated. BTW-pharma has been working on a psyche med for some time now and will no doubt be ready to launch soon. Problem is that autism is not a mental disorder and all those meds do is put a bandage on the problem and you never get to the root. The autism community doesn't want those meds. We want doctors to deal with the problems our children have-immune dysfunction, oxidative stress, inflammatory bowel disease, encephalopathy.
It is big potatoes. The biology of autism is very similar to that of AD and many other neurodegenerative diseases and immune disorders. The number of boys now with autism in NJ for example now stands at 1 in every 23 boys. If that's not big potatoes-then I'll eat a GMO hat.

Fiat_Lux
15913
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Fiat_Lux 11/06/12 - 05:56 pm
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Look, M. Meleck, I understand what you are saying

I really do. But you simply do not have enough evidence to support your correlations. No one does, not yet.

And autism IS small potatoes compared with many other disorders that have far more impact on public health overall. Obesity is one such, as are hypertension and coronary artery disease. Pediatric cancers are more compelling. Hemophilia is more prevalent, and costs a lot more to treat, with much higher morbidity than autism.

Just try to step outside yourself and your own family for a moment and put your concerns--as genuine and important as they truly are--into perspective with the bigger public health picture.

It's your shrillness that is the problem, and it's not just you but the whole activist movement surrounding autism. I've been studying this disorder (and even wrote papers on it) since it was thought to be, and was diagnostically labeled "early infantile schizophrenia. Does your information go back that far?

I really have nothing further to offer this discussion. Vaya con Dios, to you and especially your grandchild. I pray s/he is healed.

msitua
132
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msitua 11/07/12 - 04:54 pm
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sorry if you perceive me as shrill

but I would love to carry this further with you. if you see this message and want to e-mail maurine_meleck@yahoo.com-please feel free-I promise not to be shrill.. Actually my information takes me back to the original 11 people diagnosed with autism-pre WWII.
There are more children with autism today than childhood cancer, diabetes, Diowns Syndrome, , CF etc combined. Cancer might be more compelling to you and many but if you were one of the parents of the 54 boys in the US with autism(and that's a 2008 number) I doubt you'd be saying that. I do not think people realize the cost of raising a child with autism--most of which is not covered by insurance(unlike a child with cancer). At the nmoment over 80 percent of the autistic population is under the age of 18-the majority will never be independent. Can you imagine the cost to our government and us as taxpayers?
Interesting that you mention hemophilia. It is certainly has no numbers like autism. I actually worked in NYC for 7 years at the national hemophilia Fdn many years ago I even knew Robert Massie quite well.
So if you have any interest in any more info-I promise not to be shrill(angry is probably more like it)and not angry either. ---then e-mail me. I know a lot of therapists in the area. Do I know you. Thanks for the thumbs up for my grandsonh(who BTW I am raising). Take care, maurine Meleck

msitua
132
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msitua 11/07/12 - 04:56 pm
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Opps I meant the 1 in 54 boys

Opps I meant the 1 in 54 boys in the US with autism. MM

Augusta C.
10
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Augusta C. 11/08/12 - 11:49 pm
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Fiat Lux

Fiat Lux is patronizing from the first three words he writes: Please calm down.
He's also sexist, calling Maurine "shrill."
He's uninformed, not knowing vaccines have been linked with autistic behavior in animal studies - both apes and mice. He doesn't know the U.S. government has compensated Hannah Poling $20 million (over her lifetime) for her autism resulting from the MMR and thimerosal-containing vaccines. http://www.cbsnews.com/8300-31727_162-10391695.html?keyword=hannah+poling
HHS has awarded other autistic children similarly, including Bailey Banks. A study of Hep B has shown boys who received the shot at birth are three times more likely to develop autism than boys who did not receive the shot. There are dozens more examples of the autism/vaccine link.
But Fiat Lux's worst offense is that he has the nerve and the profound ignorance to say autism is "small potatoes compared with other disorders."
Fiat Lux, watch this Youtube video of severe autism from beginning to end, and then you can eat your words and mash your potatoes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPWL5yimhyg

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