Scientists have found a nasal spray containing oxytocin, the "bonding" hormone, can help alleviate some symptoms of autism.
In the study, which was carried out on 13 patients with high-functioning autism, defined as those of normal or above-normal intelligence, researchers found that participants who inhaled the spray altered their behavior temporarily, becoming more sociable and trusting, reports The Times.
Autism and Asperger's, a related syndrome, impede the ability to communicate or form relationships. Many people with the conditions find it difficult even to meet someone else's eye.
"Under oxytocin, patients with high-functioning autism respond more strongly to others and exhibit more appropriate social behavior," wrote Elissar Andari, of the Institut des Sciences Cognitives, a French government centre for neuroscience research, in a summary of a recent conference presentation.
In a summary of her presentation to the Mediterranean Conference of Neuroscience, held in Egypt, Andari said the results "suggested a therapeutic potential of oxytocin through its action on a core dimension of autism".
Dr Gina Owens, research leader at the National Autistic Society, said: "Further rigorous scientific evaluation is necessary before we can fully assess any potential benefits. As autism affects people in very different ways, any intervention that may help one person may not be effective for another."