The Other Face of Oxytocin
: Role of Oxytocin in Neuropsychiatric Disorders
The neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) is well-known for its role in pregnancy and lactation. However its role extends beyond the reproductive system. In fact, the role of OXT in neuropsychiatric disorders has long been studied. OXT is largely associated with social behaviour and stress reduction, and so it is to no surprise that it is thought to be involved in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Many studies have investigated how abnormalities in the OXT system give rise to symptoms and sociocognitive deficits many patients with neuropsychiatric disorders exhibit. Understanding the pathophysiology of these disorders enables the development of more efficacious therapeutic agents which target the abnormalities and give rise to less adverse effects.
In this review we summarize the literature available to date about the role of OXT in schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), addiction to drugs of abuse and anorexia nervosa (AN). Although these disorders are very separate and different entities, they all have something common in their pathology; they are associated with deranged OXT systems. Although many studies have been conducted to determine the exact role of OXT in these disorders and how OXT can be used to treat these disorders, research is still in its infancy. Further research is required to be able to standardise OXT as a therapeutic agent, determine its effects and safety, both in short-term and long-term use.
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