A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2018 | Number 2, Volume 32

Vasopressin: ASD marker?

A new study involving both monkeys and humans suggests that low levels of vasopressin may be a marker for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 

Karen Parker and colleagues measured levels of oxytocin and vasopressin, two hormones related to social behavior, in the blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of rhesus monkeys. These animals’ social cognition is similar in many ways to those of humans. 

Comparing 15 male monkeys with low sociability to 15 male monkeys with high sociability, the researchers found that less-social monkeys had significantly less vasopressin in their CSF than monkeys in the more sociable group. They were able to replicate this finding in a second group of monkeys from a different cohort. Analysis of stored CFS samples from another group of monkeys showed that vasopressin levels remained stable over time. 

The researchers also measured vasopressin levels in seven boys with ASD and seven age-matched children without autism, using CSF samples collected via lumbar puncture for unrelated medical reasons. They found that children with ASD had significantly lower vasopressin levels than those without ASD. 

Senior study coauthor John Capitanio cautions that while the study points to low CSF vasopressin as a biomarker for the social deficits seen in autism, “we don’t know if the deficit is causal.”


“Arginine vasopressin in cerebrospinal fluid is a marker of sociality in nonhuman primates,” K. J. Parker, J. P. Garner, O. Oztan, E. R. Tarara, J. Li, V. Sclafani, L. A. Del Rosso, K. Chun, S. W. Berquist, M. G. Chez, S. Partap, A. Y. Hardan, E. H. Sherr, and J. P. Capitanio, Science Translational Medicine, May 2, 2018. Address: Karen Parker, [email protected]


 “CSF vasopressin a first autism biomarker?,” Batya Swift Yasgur, Medscape, May 9, 2018.