Trial Search Results

The Role of Vasopressin in the Social Deficits of Autism

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine are seeking participants for a study examining the effectiveness of vasopressin, a neuropeptide, in treating children with autism spectrum disorder. Difficulty with social interactions is characteristic of people with autism, who often have problems interpreting facial expressions or maintaining eye contact while talking with someone. There are currently no effective medicines available to treat social problems in individuals with autism. Neuropeptides, such as vasopressin and oxytocin, are molecules used by neurons in the brain to communicate with one another. Vasopressin is closely related to oxytocin, which is currently being tested as a treatment for autism, and has been shown to enhance social functioning in animals. Animal studies have shown that when the proper functioning of vasopressin is experimentally altered, animals develop a variety of social deficits, including impaired memory for peers and a reduced interest in social interaction. Researchers found that when vasopressin was administered to mice with a genetically induced form of autism, their social functioning improved. Vasopressin is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in humans, and has proved to be a successful treatment for some common pediatric conditions, including bedwetting. Similar to oxytocin, it also has been shown to improve social cognition and memory in people who do not have autism. The researchers will test the effects of vasopressin on social impairments in 50 boys and girls with autism, ages 6 to 12 years old. The study will last four weeks for each participant. Participants will receive either vasopressin or a placebo nasal spray. At the end of this phase of the study, those who received the placebo will have the option of participating in a four-week trial during which they will be given vasopressin. Stanford is the only site for the study. Participants do not need to live locally but will need to come to the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for study visits.

Stanford is currently accepting patients for this trial.

Lead Sponsor:

Stanford University

Collaborator: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


  • Drug: Vasopressin
  • Drug: Placebo


Phase 2


Inclusion Criteria:

   - medically healthy outpatients between 6 and 12 years of age (cut off: 12 years and 11

   - Intelligence Quotient (IQ) equal to or greater than 70 (Stanford-Binet)

   - Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) Total Score equal to or greater than 70

   - ability to complete laboratory and cognitive testing

   - diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) based on expert clinical opinion and on
   the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Autism Diagnostic Observation
   Schedule (ADOS)

   - Clinical Global Impression (CGI) severity rating of 4 or higher

   - care provider who can reliably bring participant to clinic visits, provide trustworthy
   ratings, and interact with the participant on a regular basis

   - stable medications for at least 4 weeks

   - no planned changes in psychosocial interventions during the trial

   - no concurrent participation in any other clinical research trials

   - willingness to provide blood samples

Exclusion Criteria:

   - diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or psychotic

   - regular nasal obstruction or nosebleeds

   - active and unstable medical problems (e.g., migraine; asthma; seizure disorder;
   anaphylaxis; epilepsy; diabetes; serious liver, renal, or cardiac pathology)

   - clinically significant abnormal vital signs or ECG reading

   - evidence of a genetic (e.g., Fragile X Syndrome) or metabolic disorder

   - significant hearing or vision impairments

   - drinks large volumes of water (e.g., habitual or psychogenic polydipsia)

   - pregnant or sexually active females not using a reliable method of contraception
   (urine pregnancy test will be conducted)

   - history of hypersensitivity to vasopressin, its analogs (e.g., Desmopressin), or
   compounding preservatives (e.g., chlorobutanol)

   - current use of any medications known to interact with vasopressin including: 1)
   carbamazepine (i.e., Tegretol); chlorpropamide; clofibrate; urea; fludrocortisone;
   tricyclic antidepressants (all of which may potentiate the antidiuretic effect of
   vasopressin when used concurrently); 2) demeclocycline; norepinephrine; lithium;
   heparin; alcohol (all of which may decrease the antidiuretic effect of vasopressin
   when used concurrently); 3) ganglionic blocking agents including benzohexonium,
   chlorisondamine, pentamine (all of which may produce a marked increase in sensitivity
   to the pressor effects of vasopressin)

Ages Eligible for Study

6 Years - 12 Years

Genders Eligible for Study


Now accepting new patients

Contact Information

Stanford University
School of Medicine
300 Pasteur Drive
Stanford, CA 94305
Robin A Libove, BS