Scientists have found more clues as to why autism development is higher in boys than girls. A new study has determined that brain structure is a big factor and those with male brains or male-like brains are likely to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Previous studies have determined that autism is more common in boys. The latest study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal confirmed, however, that girls with a male-like brain structure could also develop autism three times higher than a girl with typical female brain.
Experts conducted their study among two groups. One had 98 right-handed adults with ASD and the other had the same amount of participants who are also right-handed but without ASD. The men and women were from the ages 18 to 42.
Experts focused on assessing the cortical thickness of the participants' brains via MRI scans. They were also given standard clinical tests for the diagnoses.
The thickness of the cortex, which is a neural tissue that protects the brain's outer layer, influences language, memory, thinking and other cognitive functions. A typical male brain anatomy usually has a thinner cortex tissue than a female brain anatomy.
In the study, some female participants were discovered to have thinner cortex tissues. "We found that brain phenotype ranged from being typically female to typically male and that there is variability between these extremes," lead study author Christine Ecker said, via Fox. Experts noted that participants with male or male-like brain anatomy were likely to have ASD regardless of their biological gender.
"Our study demonstrates that normative sex-related phenotypic diversity in brain structure affects the prevalence of ASD in addition to biological sex alone, with male neuroanatomical characteristics carrying a higher intrinsic risk for ASD than female characteristics," study authors noted in their study, according to Medical Today. Further studies have been recommended as the Ecker said it's still not clear how their findings can help with predicting and detecting ASD.
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