Could It Be that All Men Are a Bit Autistic?
The Times (London) is reporting a new study by Cambridge University researchers that implicates exposure to high levels of testosterone in the womb to psychological characteristics associated with autism. The study did not look at autistic children but noted that characteristics such as preferring to play alone and better pattern recognition correlate with in utero testosterone levels. The Times reports:
The theory that autism is caused by an extreme version of the "male brain" has won strong support from new research showing that male hormones in the womb are linked to social and emotional skills in childhood…
Professor Baron-Cohen cautioned that the results do not prove that the link between male hormones and autistic traits is causal – both could be the result of something else – and that his team has not yet examined autistic children, only autistic traits in the normal position.
Even so, he said the work adds strong biological evidence to his extreme male brain theory. "The extreme male brain hypothesis was developed at a psychological level, based on observed sex differences," he said. "Simply put, girls tend to show better empathy and boys tend to have a stronger interest in systems. Children with autism seem to have an exaggerated version of typical male preferences. They have a strong interest in systems and have difficulty empathising.
"We are now moving from a psychological level down to a biological level, finding that elevated levels of testosterone may contribute to the number of autistic traits that you have. It is an exciting development.
"What we knew before was that foetal testosterone affected brain development, but we only knew that from animal research. This study has looked at that relationship in humans. We knew before that it correlated with social development at early points in childhood, but we had not looked at early autistic traits."
Whole Times article here.
Some of my reporting debunking the alleged vaccine/autism connection here. So for Pete's sake, go get your kids vaccinated already.