In mammals, a class of neurons in the brain normally switches from excitatory to inhibitory functions at birth. Tyzio et al. (see the Perspective by Zimmerman and Connors) studied how these neurons function in rat and mouse models of autism. The results show that oxytocin normally accelerates the switch in function, but in these two animal models, the switch fails. The dysfunction could be replicated in normal animals using an oxytocin receptor antagonist.
R. Tyzio, R. Nardou, D. C. Ferrari, T. Tsintsadze, A. Shahrokhi, S. Eftekhari, I. Khalilov, V. Tsintsadze, C. Brouchoud, G. Chazal, E. Lemonnier, N. Lozovaya, N. Burnashev, Y. Ben-Ari, Oxytocin-mediated GABA inhibition during delivery attenuates autism pathogenesis in rodent offspring. Science 343, 675–679 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]