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Brain Structure May Be The Reason Why Autism Is More Common In Men

Update Date: Feb 14, 2017 07:39 PM EST

A recent study has recently suggested that the difference in the brain structure might explain why autism is more likely found in men than in women.

In an article published by Health Day, European researchers reported that women were three times more at risk to have autism spectrum disorder if they have a brain structure similar to what is more commonly seen in men's brain.

Dr. Matthew Lorber, acting director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City explained that these women have specifically much thicker cortical areas than normal women does, which is a trait that is generally seen in male brains.

Dr. Lorber, who was not part of the study, also added saying that the study, published in JAMA, is not a conclusive study; however, it does suggest a reason why autism is more frequently seen in males than in females. This could lead to an understanding that there is something about the way the structure of the male brain that makes men more at risk of developing autism, even though the study did not provide evidence that the difference in structure causes the disorder.

Background notes of the study provided information that autism is two to five more common in men that in women. According to previous studies, the biology of men may put them at a higher risk for the disorder. To test the theory, a team of researchers led by Christine Ecker of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, performed brain scans on 98 right-handed adults who have autism. They also conducted brain scans on 98 neurologically healthy people for comparison, reported UPI.

The scans mainly focused on the thickness of the cerebral cortex which is the gray outer layer of neural tissue in the brain. Researchers of the study explained that the thickness of the cerebral cortex is different in men and women, and this may also be altered in people with autism.

Meanwhile, researchers found that men with autism actually have a similar brain structure with those men who don't have the disorder. However, results showed that the brains of women with autism showed similarity in structure to men than other women.

Mathew Pletcher, vice president and head of genomic discovery at Autism Speaks, said, "This work suggests that changes in specific features of the brain may be associated with autism in some females." He also warned that there were not a lot of people who were checked in the study and continued saying that it isn't enough to draw any firm conclusions.

"Understanding the difference in prevalence in males versus females for autism is an important research topic that could provide critical information on the causes and biology of autism," Pletcher said.

"Unfortunately, the study does not include enough individuals to be confident that this change in brain structure is meaningful," he added. Pletcher continued saying that it is still unclear that any differences observed in the study have a significant impact on the brain or that could contribute to the behavioral and social features of autism.

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