Oxytocin is a key hormone in building social interactions and empathy. It has been shown that taking oxytocin can improve the ability of both healthy and autistic people to read faces and recognize emotion in others. Since Prader-Willi syndrome shares some characteristics with autism, and is also associated with a reduction in the number of oxytocin producing neurons, researchers from France enrolled people at a dedicated centre on a trial testing the use of the hormone.
Patients involved in the trial often stayed at the centre for one month visits where they took part in daily occupational and physical activities. They also received medical care and psychological support if it was needed. During one of their usual visits the patients received a single dose of either oxytocin, or placebo, and their eating and behavior monitored for two days prior to the treatment, and two days after.
Professor Tauber from Centre de R'f'rence du Syndrome de Prader-Willi, France, said, "Two days after administration of oxytocin, we noticed that our patients had increased trust, decreased sadness and showed less disruptive behavior. Despite the small size of our trial, a single dose of oxytocin had a significant, late acting, effect on our patients. This is really encouraging news for the continued management of people with Prader-Willi syndrome."