Nasal SprayA new drug being trialled by researchers in Australia has shown improvements to ‘responsiveness and awareness’ in patients.

The new treatment works by delivering a synthetic version of oxytocin via the nostrils, allowing the hormone to be quickly assimilated into the body. Oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’, can encourage the adoption of ‘prosocial’ behaviours by reducing the level of anxiety a user feels. Autism is a mental condition characterised by a difficulty in forming relationships, using language and communicating with others.

Professor Adam Guastella of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, which conducted the research, said: “The sorts of results that we have in our trials suggest children show more responsiveness and awareness of the important social information in a relationship. They seem to be able to remember that information more effectively.”

The Brain and Mind Centre administered the drug to a number of young autistic children, with promising results. Professor Guastella told Australia’s 9 News channel that the treatment could be used for some autism sufferers within five years.

Christine Blue’s son Hayden was diagnosed with autism at age two. After taking part in the study, Ms Blue commented on the impressive changes she saw in him: “Hayden was happy to be included in a group, he wouldn’t go off on his own and his eye contact was better,” she said. “His general engagement with another person was better.”

The researchers are hopeful that the drug could be used to treat anxiety and other neurological conditions in the future. They are currently looking for participants to take part in a new trial.