Background: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty with verbal communication, which might be due to a lack of spontaneous orientation toward social auditory stimuli. Previous studies have shown that a single dose of oxytocin improves speech comprehension in autism. The primary aim of this study was to investigate whether the orientation behaviors toward human sounds are different for neurotypical (NT) adults and adults with ASD and whether oxytocin has an effect on their orientation behaviors toward human sounds. Methods. This was a randomized, placebo-controlled, within-subject, crossover design study of intranasal oxytocin versus placebo in 13 NT adults and 16 adults with ASD. Subjects were randomized to 24 IU intranasal oxytocin or placebo on different days, and they were blind to the treatment. The participants then listened passively to human and non-human affective sounds while their skin conductance responses (SCRs) and the changes in peripheral blood vessel constriction were monitored as an indicator of spontaneous orientation. The monitored data were analyzed by a mixed-design ANOVA. Results: Oxytocin enhanced the difference between the SCRs to human and non-human sounds in both the NT and ASD groups (F(1,56) = 6.046, p = 0.017). Further correlation coefficient analysis showed significant correlations between this SCR difference and the scores in the autism spectrum quotient 'attention to detail' and 'social skill' subscales and interpersonal reactivity index and social functioning scale in the ASD group. Oxytocin was well tolerated, and no serious adverse effects were reported. Conclusions: The difference in SCRs implies that oxytocin nasal spray may enhance orientation behaviors toward human sounds in the presence of other environmental sounds in both ASD and NT adults. Trial registration. UMIN-CTR Clinical Trial, Unique trial number: UMIN000005809.
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