Autism affects female brain differently
[Posted: Sat 10/08/2013 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
Autism affects different parts of the brain depending on whether a person is male or female, a new study has found.
Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a biological disorder of the brain that impairs communication and social skills. Signs can include an absence of eye contact, apparent aloofness, avoidance of physical contact even with family, difficulty dealing with interruptions to routine and a lack of interest in other children and what they are doing.
Autism affects around 1% of the population and is more commonly found in males. As a result, most studies have tended to focus on males.
UK scientists set out to investigate whether autism had the same or different effects on the brains of males and females. They used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to examine the brains.
They found that the anatomy of the brain of someone with autism was different depending on whether they were male or female.
Affected brain areas in women with autism were similar to the brain areas of males and females without autism. However, this was not the case with males with autism.
"The findings suggest that we should not blindly assume that everything found in males with autism applies to females. This is an important example of the diversity within the spectrum," the scientists from the University of Cambridge said.
They pointed out that this is one of the biggest brain imaging studies of autism ever carried out, which focuses on the issue of gender.
"Females with autism have long been under-recognised and probably misunderstood," the team said.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Brain.