Skip to content
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)
Autism Research Database
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC)
 
Project Element Element Description

Project Title

Project Title

Evaluation of a melanocortin agonist to improve social cognition in autism

Principal Investigator

Principal Investigator

Guastella, Adam

Description

Description

Autism is a seriously disabling, distressing and costly life-long disability. A diagnostic hallmark of autism is a qualitative impairment in reciprocal social interaction, including failure to adequately use eye-to-eye gaze, recognize emotion, and regulate social interactions. Research shows the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) modulates social behavior. In mice, rats, monkeys, and sheep, for instance, central administration of OT administation enhances social recognition, memory for peers, development of partner preference and bonding, while reducing predatory aggression. In humans, OT nasal spray can impressively impact on social cognition, including eye gaze, emotion recognition, and social interaction behavior. These effects have also been shown in patients with autism. The therapeutic effectiveness of OT nasal spray may, however, be limited, partly because it does not readily pass the blood-brain barrier. An alternative approach is to stimulate OT release through alternate and peripheral mechanisms. Melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4-R) stimulation, in particular, has been shown to induce central but not peripheral release of OT. In humans, PT-141 is a noted safe and effective synthetic peptide that acts on melanocortin receptors. We conduct the first study of PT-141 nasal spray to determine its effects on social cognition in humans. A total of 60 neurotypical participants and 60 participants diagnosed with autism receive PT-141 nasal spray (7mg, N = 30) or placebo at the first assessment session, and then the alternate spray at the second assessment session. Following drug administration, participants complete experimental tasks. We hypothesise that PT-141 nasal spray will increase gaze to the eyes, improve the accurate and fast identification of the correct emotion from faces, and improve the capacity of participants diagnosed with autism to correctly respond to social cues. Positive results will significantly advance the neuroscience of social behavior in this heated research field and develop an exciting new treatment for autism.

Funder

Funder

Simons Foundation

Fiscal Year Funding

Fiscal Year Funding

0

Current Award Period

Current Award Period

2012-2016

Strategic Plan Question

Strategic Plan Question

Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help?

Strategic Plan Objective

Strategic Plan Objective

Yellow dot: Objective has some degree of funding, but less than the recommended amount. 4LA. Complete at least three randomized controlled trials on medications targeting core symptoms in people with ASD of all ages by 2014. IACC Recommended Budget: $22,200,000 over 5 years.

Project Link

Project Link

Evaluation of a melanocortin agonist to improve social cognition in autism (External web link)

Institution

Institution

University of Sydney

State/Country

State/Country

Australia

Project Number

Project Number

244612

Federal or Private?

Federal or Private?

Private

Received ARRA Funding?

Received ARRA Funding?

No

History/Related Projects

History/Related Projects

Evaluation of a melanocortin agonist to improve social cognition in autism | 0 | 2015 | 244612
Evaluation of a melanocortin agonist to improve social cognition in autism | 74675 | 2013 | 244612

 
Back to Top