Eileen Hopkins at the Forefront of Autism Research – opinion matters

In reference to a BBC News article on autism research titled: Autism “extreme male brain” clue, Eileen Hopkins was quoted, “Anything that adds to the body of knowledge on autism is clearly welcome.” Ms. Hopkins, a member of ICare4Autism’s advisory council, will be speaking on autism in Israel at ICare4Autism’s upcoming August Autism Conference.

The BBC article goes on to explain that the development of the autistic brain is an exaggeration of what happens in male brains. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen heads the team behind his theory. The evidence is that males generally have greater early growth of certain brain regions, and less hemispheric connectivity than females.

Both male brains and autistic brains grow more quickly than that of girls. There are also specific difference in brain regions. The amygdala, which plays a key role in emotional responses, is abnormally large in toddlers with autism; again an exaggeration of the typical development of the male brain. The researchers say evidence points to exposure to male hormones, such as testosterone, before birth affecting these brain development patterns.

Professor Baron-Cohen stressed that the researchers on his team are interested in understanding autism. “This is not about how we could intervene to prevent autism, or developing a pre-natal test.

“There are two ethical concerns; whether autism is a disease, which one would want to prevent or eradicate – a lot of people don’t see it as a disease. These are simply children who develop differently.

“Secondly, there is the issue of pre-natal testing. Would a test be specific or sensitive enough?”


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