Social Studies: Oxytocin as a Target in Psychiatric Drug Development
Posted May 15, 2008
In mammals, oxytocin hormone has been long recognized for its role in birth and lactation. During the peripartum period, the number of oxytocin receptors in the uterus skyrockets. Oxytocin facilitates contractions and delivery, and controls the let-down lactation reflex.
But as with so many hormones, oxytocin's functions turn out to be diverse, complex, and far-reaching. This system not only regulates maternal behavior and sexual activity, but also has analgesic effects and promotes bonding among animals that form pair bonds. Oxytocin has anxiolytic, stress-attenuating, and perhaps even antidepressant activity, making it an interesting potential target for therapeutics. At a March 25, 2008, meeting at the Academy, four scientists discussed their research on oxytocin.
NIMH – Autism
The National Institute of Mental Health has a detailed publication on the symptoms, associated conditions, diagnosis and treatment of the many related autism spectrum disorders. The site also summarizes research into the causes of autism and provides references.
NARSAD (previously, the National Alliance on Schizophrenia and Depression) presents general information about mental health and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and depression. For researchers, it includes summaries of all the research projects conducted by its grantees, as well as information about applying for grants.
The Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence
This Web site describes research projects and clinical programs at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
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Love and Anxiety in the Lab: Basic Research
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Oxytocin in the Clinic: Autism and Anxiety
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Oliver J. Bosch, PhD
Oliver Bosch is a research associate for behavioral neurobiology in Inga Neumann's group at the University of Regensburg, Germany. His main research interest is the underlying neurobiology of maternal behavior, including maternal aggression and stress coping with respect to inborn emotionality. He focuses on the role of oxytocin as well as other brain neuropeptides using techniques such as measuring in vivo release in certain brain areas using microdialysis as well as acute and chronic manipulations of these neuropeptide systems via retrodialysis, osmotic minipumps, and viral vector-mediated gene transfer.
Bosch graduated from the University of Regensburg with a PhD in zoology. Currently, he is collaborating with scientists from the Emory University, Atlanta; the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, Edinburgh; Okayama Graduate School of Medicine, Okayama; and the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Munich.
C. Sue Carter, PhD
Sue Carter is professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she is codirector of the Brain Body Center. Her research focuses on the neurobiology of social monogamy in prairie voles, with emphasis on the functions of oxytocin and vasopressin. She also has been involved in studies of human behavior, including research demonstrating the physiological benefits of lactation to the mother, and recent studies of oxytocin in various forms of mental illness.
Eric Hollander, MD
Eric Hollander is the Esther and Joseph Klingenstein professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry, and director of the Seaver and Greater New York Autism Center of Excellence, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Hollander's research interests include the biological causes and effective treatment of autism and related pervasive developmental disorders, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, pathological gambling, and borderline personality disorder.
Hollander received his MD from SUNY Downstate Medical College, Brooklyn. He completed his internship in Internal Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital, residency and chief resident in psychiatry at Mt Sinai School of Medicine, and his NIMH research fellowship at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Robert H. Ring, PhD
Robert Ring is head of Molecular Neurobiology for the Discovery Neurosciences Division of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Research in Princeton, NJ. His work is focused on investigating the role of central neuropeptidergic systems in psychiatric pathophysiology and is leading efforts at Wyeth to develop novel therapeutics for major depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. Ring also holds an appointment as adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York, NY. He received undergraduate degrees in both biology and fine art at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, and worked several years as a gallery artist before returning to science. He earned his PhD in molecular neurobiology at the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Southern California.
Kathleen McGowan is a freelance magazine writer specializing in science and medicine.