Since autism is more common among males than females, there has been more research to date examining the male population, leaving the female autistic brain fairly unknown. Many researchers and professionals in the field have then assumed that the autistic brains of males and females are similar, however a new study proves different.
This study, conducted at the University of Cambridge, looked at MRI-scans of both men and women with and without autism, to study the brain anatomies. The goal of the study was to address whether the neuroanatomy of autism is different between the sexes, and the implications of such findings. The data concluded that autism’s affect on the brain is sex-dependent, suggesting the need for further research, as this is the largest brain imaging study concerning gender-related differences in autism to date.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a member of ICare4Autism’s Advisory Committee, Director of the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre, and senior author of the study explained, “This may implicate physiological mechanisms that drive sexual dimorphism, such as prenatal sex hormones and sex-linked genetic mechanisms.”[i] In addition, leader of the study Dr. Meng-Chuan Lai suggests,
“Females with autism have long been under-recognized and probably misunderstood. The findings suggest that we should not blindly assume that everything found in males with autism applied to females.”
The autistic brain is of interest and concern for leaders in the field, and this new implication of gender differences in autism will hopefully lead to further examination for a better understanding.
[i] “Netdoctor” Autism ‘affects men and women differently’. 9 Aug 2013. Web. < http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/interactive/news/autism-affects-men-and-women-differently-id801623081-t116.html>