Now, a team of scientists located at the Stanford University School of Medicine may have discovered a connection between levels of oxytocin in the blood and in cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain. Low levels of this hormone in either CSF or blood have been linked with higher levels of anxiety. Published in Molecular Psychiatry, this study is important because it can lead to possible treatments for various psychiatric diseases, including anxiety.
Normally, collecting cerebrospinal fluid involves inserting a needle into the spine, which can be a painful procedure. Scientists have tried to measure levels of oxytocin in the blood to avoid the necessity of the procedure, however they have not been certain that oxytocin levels in blood accurately reflect those in cerebrospinal fluid. Even though levels of oxytocin are usually lower in the blood than in cerebrospinal fluid, there is a connection between the levels of it in both of them. This particular study recruited 27 participants between the ages of 4 and 64 who were required to have their cerebrospinal fluid extracted.
After receiving the consent of the patients, researchers analyzed levels of oxytocin in their CSF and also obtained blood samples. Parents of 10 children involved in the study were also given a survey in which they answered questions about the anxiety levels of their kids. Results showed that people with low levels of oxytocin in their blood also displayed low levels of oxytocin in their cerebrospinal fluid. Conversely, people demonstrating
high levels of the hormone in their blood also had high levels of it in their cerebrospinal fluid as well.
Researchers now ponder the implications of this study, such as if oxytocin can be used to treat anxiety in kids with autism. This is a symptom influencing 80-90% of all those suffering from autism. As levels are different depending on the person, researchers note that different people may respond differently to oxytocin therapy. This could very well affect the diagnosis of many individuals, and possible serve to increase their chances of a favorable outcome to the disease. Researchers note that these findings must be repeated with more people to gain true credibility in the academic world.