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Can non-invasive brain stimulation combined with oxytocin-based pharmacotherapy enhance brain function in autism? Investigating the neural and behavioral effects of two promising intervention approaches.

The last decade, neuroscience research provided increasing insights in how different brain regions work together to constitute the neural networks that underlie human social behavior. Targeting these networks to improve or restore social function would be of high relevance for neuropsychiatric conditions that have specific implications in social and communicative domains, such as autism spectrum disorders. At present, neuro-modulating approaches mainly rely on behavioral therapies. The current research project will explore novel avenues for enhancing neuro-modulation of the social networks in the autistic brain. Initial promising results have emerged for intranasal administration of the social neuropeptide oxytocin for promoting social functioning. Also strong therapeutic potential is anticipated for applying noninvasive excitatory brain stimulation over key brain loci in the autistic brain. A specific interest this project lies in assessing whether these novel intervention approaches can enhance the neural communications or connectivity within social brain networks. In normal development, the neural circuits that underlie human social behavior are not fixed, but constantly change from interactions with our surroundings. This project will define whether plastic neural changes can be specifically enhanced from neuropeptide treatments and/or non-invasive brain stimulation.
Date:1 Oct 2014  →  30 Sep 2016
Keywords:autism, oxytocin-based pharmacotherapy, Brain function, behavioral effects, brain stimulation, brain, neural effects
Disciplines:Laboratory medicine, Palliative care and end-of-life care, Regenerative medicine, Other basic sciences, Other health sciences, Nursing, Other paramedical sciences, Other translational sciences, Other medical and health sciences