A new study has revealed that autistic girls and autistic boys exhibit different behaviors. It turns out that the restrictive and repetitive behaviors that experts typically associate with autism are very common in boys, but not so common in girls. What’s more, the two sexes also show differences in some areas of their brains.
Kaustubh Supekar, the study’s lead author and postdoctoral researcher working at the Stanford University School of Medicine (California), offered a statement explaining that the information he and his colleagues found points at “a potential factor that may contribute to the relatively low proportion of females with autism”.
Some of the usual restrictive and repetitive behaviors that medical experts rely on to give a diagnosis are strictly adhering to certain routines, repetitive motions, and having a single-minded fixation with a certain area of interest.
But the new findings have made the researchers consider the possibility that autistic girls whose restrictive and repetitive behaviors are less prominent “may miss being tested for autism or get misclassified as social communication disorder”.
As for autistic boys, those whose restrictive and repetitive behaviors are more pronounced “may show more false positives for autism spectrum disorders” for the simple reason that these behaviors “are not specific to children with autism and are also observed in other neurodevelopmental disorders”.
The communication and social difficulties, on the other hand, were the same for both boys and girls.
The research team also found that there are differences in the brains of autistic boys and autistic girls. The area linked to movement differs from sex to sex, and there are also differences in gray matter in more than one area of their brains.
For their study, Supekar and his colleagues examined 614 autistic boys and 128 autistic girls, all in the 7 to 13 age group, and all with an IQ of more than 70.
They also browsed a database with MRI scans of autistic children and as well healthy children. They ended up focusing on the brain scans of 25 autistic girls, 25 autistic boys, 19 healthy girls, and 19 healthy boys. All of them had the same age and a similar IQ range.
It’s worth mentioning that there were no difference between the brains of girls and boys without autisms.
The researchers hope that their findings will be used to develop new treatments based on the brain structures of the patients’.
The study was published on Thursday, September 3, 2015, in the journal Molecular Autism.
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