The Wall Street Journal reports that “inhalation of the hormone oxytocin may benefit patients with autism or schizophrenia . . . [by improving] social interactions among these patients because it helps them pick up on the emotions of other people.” Extensive research among rodents called prairie voles on the role of oxytocin in social relations led to work in humans. For example, studies using intranasal oxytocin in patients with autism spectrum disorders produced improvements in trusting or recognizing emotions in others.
Other research in small groups of patients and controls has suggested that oxytocin produced in the body may reduce the severity of some symptoms of schizophrenia. All this work, while intriguing, should be considered preliminary because the safety and efficacy of long-term oxytocin use in humans is unknown.
For more about the role of oxytocin in human behavior, see Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/7/16.2.full and http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/3/17.2.full.