Effects of single- and multiple-dose oxytocin treatment on amygdala low-frequency BOLD fluctuations and BOLD spectral dynamics in autism

Transl Psychiatry. 2022 Sep 20;12(1):393. doi: 10.1038/s41398-022-02158-8.


Prior neuroimaging clinical trials investigating the neural effects of intranasal administration of the neuropeptide oxytocin demonstrated a key role of the amygdala in oxytocin's neuromodulatory effects. These studies mostly demonstrated the acute effects of single-dose administrations, examining task-dependent effects of oxytocin on brain activity elicited during explicit experimental tasks or stimuli presentations. The increased consideration of oxytocin as a potential ameliorating treatment in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) requires a better understanding of how multiple-dose oxytocin administration affects intrinsic, task-free, amygdala function. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with between-subject design, 38 adult men with ASD underwent resting-state fMRI scanning before and after oxytocin or placebo treatment. Effects were assessed either after a single-dose administration, consisting of 24 international units, or after multiple-dose treatment, consisting of 4 weeks of once-daily nasal spray administrations. Compared to placebo, oxytocin induced a decrease in intrinsic resting-state BOLD signal amplitudes of the bilateral amygdala (fractional amplitudes of low-frequency fluctuations) and modulated cross-frequency interactions between adjacent BOLD frequency components. The right amygdala showed a pattern of reduced cross-frequency harmonicity, while the left amygdala showed a relative increase in harmonic cross-frequency interactions after oxytocin treatment. Notably, the direction and magnitude of BOLD spectral changes induced after a single-dose were qualitatively similar to treatment effects induced after multiple-dose treatment. Furthermore, the identified spectral changes in amygdalar BOLD amplitude and cross-frequency harmonicity were associated with improved feelings of tension, reflecting oxytocin's anxiolytic, stress-reducing neuromodulatory role. The observed effects of oxytocin on amygdalar BOLD spectral characteristics and associated behaviors contribute to a deeper mechanistic understanding of the intrinsic, task-free neuromodulatory dynamics that underlie single- and multiple-dose oxytocin treatment in ASD. European Clinical Trial Registry (Eudract 2014-000586-45).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / diagnostic imaging
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Autistic Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Neuropeptides*
  • Oxytocin


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Neuropeptides
  • Oxytocin

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2014-000586-45