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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 25;8(9):e74849. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074849. eCollection 2013.

Mothers of autistic children: lower plasma levels of oxytocin and Arg-vasopressin and a higher level of testosterone.

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  • 1Neuroscience Research Institute & Department of Neurobiology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China ; Key Laboratory for Neuroscience, Ministry of Education/National Health and Family Planning Commission, Peking University, Beijing, China.



Autism is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder,thought to be caused by a combination of genetic heritability and environmental risk factors. Some autistic-like traits have been reported in mothers of autistic children. We hypothesized that dysregulation of oxytocin (OXT), Arg-vasopressin (AVP) and sex hormones, found in autistic children, may also exist in their mothers.


We determined plasma levels of OXT (40 in autism vs. 26 in control group), AVP (40 vs. 17) and sex hormones (61 vs. 47) in mothers of autistic and normal children by enzyme immunoassay and radioimmunoassay, respectively and investigated their relationships with the children's autistic behavior scores (Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC)).


Significantly lower plasma concentrations of OXT (p<0.001) and AVP (p<0.001), as well as a higher level of plasma testosterone (p<0.05), were found in mothers of autistic children vs. those of control. The children's autistic behavior scores were negatively associated with maternal plasma levels of OXT and AVP.


These results suggest that dysregulation of OXT, AVP and/or testosterone systems exist in mothers of autistic children, which may impact children's susceptibility to autism.

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