Because a major characteristic of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a lack of affectionate interactions, many researchers are looking into impairments of the oxytocin system. A team of researchers looked at the genes of a large group of children with autism and found irregularities in the prolactin gene, and the genes that produce receptors for prolactin and oxytocin.
According to the press release, the researchers have registered a possible association between some of the genes identified in animal studies as controlling affiliative behaviors in ASD.” No more details in the release, but the fact that the journal, Biological Psychiatry, issued a press release means they think this is big news.
I think the study may also give weight to the role of oxytocin in human love.
“Genes Controlling Affiliative Behavior as Candidate Genes for Autism” by Carolyn M. Yrigollen, Summer S. Han, Anna Kochetkova, Tammy Babitz, Joseph T. Chang, Fred R. Volkmar, James F. Leckman and Elena L. Grigorenko. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 63, Issue 10 (May 15, 2008), published by Elsevier.