A recent study published in Brain Neuroscience Journal has indicated that differential treatments should be offered to Autistic individuals according to their gender.
Historically, as autism has been more prevalent (up to three to five times more so depending on population) in young boys, studies have centered around treatment for the male brain, this new study conducted by The University of Cambridge, compared brain scans of 120 men and women.
Looking at the research conducted by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen on the psychological differences of the neuroscience of men and women diagnosed with Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) the researchers set out to examine the effectiveness of previously emasculated techniques in therapy on female individuals with an ASD diagnosis.
They scanned the brains of an equal number of men and women with and without Autism, and noticed that the Autistic females’ brains closely resembled those of their male counterparts but without the “extreme male brain” which causes high functioning male Autistics to become detached or seem un-empathetic.
Talking to The independent, Professor Baron-Cohen said:
“One of our new findings is that females with autism show neuroanatomical ‘mascularisation’. This may implicate physiological mechanisms that drive sexual dimorphism, such as prenatal sex hormones and sex-linked genetic mechanisms.”
The news comes in the same week Professor Baron-Cohen announced the link between High Functioning Autism symptoms and those found in girls with eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa as reported by Autism Daily Newscast on August 8.
The research shows a distinct difference in High functioning Autism in females as compared to recent studies of the male brain, such a distinct difference, that it could almost be classified as a completely different infliction.
Senior researcher and co-author of the research Dr Meng-Chuan Lai explained that the differences in brain behaviour were so startling and pronounced that treatment for women simply had to differentiate for that available for men.
Dr Lai said:
“In future research we should not assume that what applies to males blindly applies to females. How autism manifests in males is quite different to how it manifests in females in terms of brain structure.
“The differences between females with and without autism look typically like the differences between males and females without autism, this is an important example of the diversity within the ‘spectrum’.”
Carol Povey, Director of The National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said:
“Historically, research on autism has been largely informed by the experiences of men and boys with the condition.
“This important study will therefore help our understanding of how the condition differs between genders. Girls can be more adaptive than boys and can develop strategies that often mask what we traditionally think of as the signs of autism.
“This “masking” can lead to a great deal of stress, and many girls go on to develop secondary problems such as anxiety, eating disorders or depression.
“It’s important that we build on this study and more research is conducted into the way autism manifests in girls and women, so that we can ensure that gender does not remain a barrier to diagnosis and getting the right support.”