Some people call it the ‘love molecule’; others prefer ‘cuddle hormone.’ There’s no shortage of warm, fuzzy nicknames for oxytocin, but what autism researchers really want is hard science.
An article published this week in Nature suggests the old hormone needs a new shtick — a rebranding of sorts. “It doesn’t induce love; it doesn’t induce massive amounts of trust,” Adam Guastella, clinical psychologist at the University of Sydney, told Nature. “The sorts of biology we’re studying here are incredibly complex.”
Trials testing the hormone’s effects in people with autism have been inconclusive. That’s why researchers are taking a step back trying to truly understand oxytocin’s effects in the brain. For more about the molecule’s lingering promise, check out our Q&A with oxytocin pioneer Larry Young, director of the Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition at Emory University in Atlanta.