'Male' Brain Linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders
A new study shows that autism, which is more common in males, also occurs more frequently in females who have differences in brain structure that are usually found in male brains. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are complex brain development disorders that can result in various social, communication, and behavioral challenges. In the U.S., autism affects about 1 in 42 boys and about 1 in 189 girls.
For this recent study, researchers focused on cortical thickness—the layers of the cerebral cortex. This area of the brain varies in males and females and is associated with autism. It plays a role in a number of processes, including memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. Researchers evaluated cortical thickness using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The study included 98 adults (49 males, 49 females) with high-functioning autism and 98 adults (51 males, 47 females) without ASD. Researchers found that females whose brains—specifically the cerebral cortices or cortexes—are anatomically more male-like are about three times more likely to have ASD than those whose brains are more female-like.
Image Credit: Thinkstock