Differences Found Between Brains of Boys and Girls with Autism
Researchers have discovered that the brains of males and females on the autism spectrum function differently, and this could be the reason why their clinical symptoms often present in different ways.
A new study in the the British Journal of Psychiatry has found functional brain organization markers that differentiate between boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as predicting their severity of symptoms.
There were 773 children with autism involved in the research (637 boys and 136 girls). Functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans of the children were taken and scientists developed a spatiotemporal deep neural network (stDNN).
The stDNN extracted functional brain dynamics features that distinguish between autistic girls and boys. Differences in clinical symptoms between the genders were also studied as well as their severity.
What are the differences between autistic boys and girls?
The study found differences between boys and girls in the brain features associated with motor, language, and visuospatial attentional systems. The study also revealed that language is one of the areas where boys and girls differ. The researchers cited previous studies that identified more significant language impairments in boys.
Brain features associated with the motor network’s primary motor cortex node also predicted the severity of restricted/repetitive behaviors in females but not in males with ASD.
However, the stDNN model could not differentiate between neurotypical females and males. The study authors hope that their findings lead to better development of gender-specific diagnoses and treatment strategies for autism.
“Our replicable findings reveal that the brains of females and males with ASD are functionally organized differently, contributing to their clinical symptoms in distinct ways,” the researchers commented.
“They inform the development of gender-specific diagnoses and treatment strategies for ASD, and ultimately advance precision psychiatry.”