Autonomic and neuroendocrine responses to a psychosocial stressor in adults with autistic spectrum disorder

J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Oct;36(7):891-9. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0124-z.


Objective of the study was to replicate in adults our previous findings of decreased heart rate and normal endocrine responses to stress in autistic children and to elucidate the discrepancy between autonomic and endocrine stress responses by including epinephrine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and vasopressin measurements. Ten autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) adults were compared to 14 healthy controls in their response to a psychosocial stressor (public speaking). ASD patients showed decreased heart rate, but normal cortisol responses, consistent with our prior findings in children. No differences in norepinephrine, epinephrine, oxytocin or vasopressin responses to stress were found. However, in contrast to previous findings in low functioning autistic children, ASD adults showed increased basal oxytocin levels, which may be related to developmental factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood*
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / blood*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Epinephrine / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood*
  • Oxytocin / blood*
  • Psychology
  • Speech
  • Stress, Psychological / blood*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Vasopressins / blood*


  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine