ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

心理科学进展 ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (5): 800-814.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.00800

• 研究前沿 • 上一篇    下一篇


黄钰杰, 赵荣, 克丽比努尔·艾尔肯, 李晶晶, 王俊琪, 潘海萍, 高军()   

  1. 西南大学心理学部; 认知与人格教育部重点实验室, 重庆 400715
  • 收稿日期:2022-09-12 出版日期:2023-05-15 发布日期:2023-02-13
  • 通讯作者: 高军
  • 基金资助:

Social dysfunction in autism spectrum disorder: Tactility and oxytocin

HUANG Yujie, ZHAO Rong, KE Libinuer·aierken, LI Jingjing, WANG Junqi, PAN Haiping, GAO Jun()   

  1. Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University; Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality, Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, China
  • Received:2022-09-12 Online:2023-05-15 Published:2023-02-13
  • Contact: GAO Jun


自闭症谱系障碍(autism disorder, ASD)的核心症状之一是持续性的社会功能障碍。近年来大量的研究表明触觉输入可以通过调控催产素系统影响社会功能。同时, 近年来提出的催产素的社会显著性理论认为, 催产素可以通过增强对应脑区的激活程度从而提高社会信息的显著性。在此理论框架下, 当社会互动发生时, 触觉输入会增强催产素的合成与分泌, 同时催产素也会提高触觉信息的显著性, 从而进一步促进社会互动的进行。基于催产素的社会显著性理论, ASD患者的触觉敏感性异常以及催产素系统异常可能破坏触觉与催产素系统之间的相互调控机制, 这可能是其社会功能缺陷的原因之一。探究触觉、催产素系统和社会功能三者的关系有助于我们了解社会功能障碍的发病机制, 为未来的预防和干预手段提供新的思路。

关键词: 自闭症谱系障碍, 社会性触摸, 催产素, 社会功能缺陷, 感觉异常


One of the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder(ASD)is persistent social dysfunction. The severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient, and there are many different clinical manifestations, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and ADHD. About 30 percent of people with ASD require psychotherapy and psychiatric care, including medication for behavioral problems. In recent years, many studies have indicated that tactile input can affect social function through regulating the oxytocin system. The affective touch conducted by C-fiber promotes the synthesis and release of oxytocin and enhances social motivation and social preference. And the social salience hypothesis of oxytocin hypothesizes that oxytocin regulates the attention orientation of individuals to social information cues in external situations. For example, oxytocin may enhance aggression and competitiveness of individuals in competitive situations while enhance cooperation in social situations. According to the social salience hypothesis of oxytocin, oxytocin increases the salience of social information through enhancing activation of corresponding brain regions. Under this theoretical framework, when social interaction happens, tactile input can enhance the synthesis and release of oxytocin, and oxytocin can also increase the salience of tactile information, which further promotes the occurrence of social interaction. Previous studies have shown that people with ASD have deficits in the oxytocin system. The main manifestations are lower peripheral oxytocin concentration than normal developing individuals and the change of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism(SNP)of oxytocin receptor. People with ASD also show abnormal tactile sensitivity, including hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. At the peripheral level, they manifest abnormal tactile threshold. At the central level, they manifest abnormal activation in the brain’s affective touch processing regions (such as insula). Compared with typical development, people with ASD show lower activation in social brain network, which maybe is the one reason of abnormal tactile sensitivity. Moderate tactile input can promote the synthesis and release of oxytocin. Thus, we can combine the exogenous oxytocin treatment with auxiliary tactile training together in the future intervening measures. And the interventions for social dysfunction need to start as early as possible. Many people with ASD exhibit abnormal sensory sensitivity in early life, which can affect the quality of parent-child interactions. If infant cannot obtain adequate sensory input from early parent-child interaction, it will cause a growth environment similar to sensory deprivation for infant patients with ASD, which will seriously affect future social functioning in adulthood. Based on the social salience hypothesis of oxytocin, this article summarizes the possible regulations between touch and oxytocin on social function. We point out that the deficits in the oxytocin system can decrease the salience of touch information in people with ASD, reducing the attention resources in social interaction and affecting the emotional feelings for touch. Abnormal tactile sensitivity results in social avoidance, which decreases the synthesis and release of oxytocin in social contact, decreasing the social motivation and social preference, ultimately resulting in social dysfunction. Exploring the interaction between touch, oxytocin system and social function can help us understand the pathogenesis of social dysfunction, and providing new ideas for the prevention and intervention in the future.

Key words: ASD, social touch, oxytocin, social dysfunction, abnormal sensation