Oxytocin enhances brain function in children with autism

Ilanit Gordon, Brent C. Vander Wyk, Randi H. Bennett, Cara Cordeaux, Molly V. Lucas, Jeffrey A. Eilbott, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, James F. Leckman, Ruth Feldman, Kevin A. Pelphrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


Following intranasal administration of oxytocin (OT), we measured, via functional MRI, changes in brain activity during judgments of socially (Eyes) and nonsocially (Vehicles) meaningful pictures in 17 children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD). OT increased activity in the striatum, the middle frontal gyrus, the medial prefrontal cortex, the right orbitofrontal cortex, and the left superior temporal sulcus. In the striatum, nucleus accumbens, left posterior superior temporal sulcus, and left premotor cortex, OT increased activity during social judgments and decreased activity during nonsocial judgments. Changes in salivary OT concentrations from baseline to 30 min postadministration were positively associated with increased activity in the right amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex during social vs. nonsocial judgments. OT may thus selectively have an impact on salience and hedonic evaluations of socially meaningful stimuli in children with ASD, and thereby facilitate social attunement. These findings further the development of a neurophysiological systems-level understanding of mechanisms by which OT may enhance social functioning in children with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20953-20958
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
StatePublished - 24 Dec 2013


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