A study is under way in Australia to see whether regular inhalation of oxytocin can improve the ability of people with ASD to recognize faces and respond more appropriately in social interactions, according to an article in The Australian.
The Centre for Autism Research, Education and Service (CARES), funded by the National Health Service, is giving 20 men aged 12 to 20 oxytocin inhalants to use at home. The article doesn't mention whether they will sniff at will or at regular intervals. My guess is it would work better if they inhaled the oxytocin right before social interactions, but it would be easier to standardize the experiment if they took regular doses.
Stewart Einfeld, who as well as being co-director of CARES with Tonge is also head of child development research at the BMRI, sounds a note of caution, saying while he is "confident" that oxytocin will improve symptoms, it remains to be seen whether that necessarily flows on to a meaningful improvement in patients' lives.
"It's one thing to say that the capacity to understand emotions is improved in an experimental setting," Einfeld says. "It's another thing to say that as a consequence, they are functioning better and are able to get better jobs or are living more independently. You can't be predicting too many long-term benefits until you have done the work."
The study is led by Adam Guastella, who also is working on using oxytocin to improve communication during couples therapy.