Brain Study Suggests Autism Develops Differently in Girls Than Boys

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

THURSDAY, April 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Autism appears to develop differently in girls and boys, so findings from research conducted primarily with boys may not apply to girls, a new study suggests.

Autism spectrum disorder is four times more common in boys, which may help explain why there is much less research on autism in girls.

“This new study provides us with a roadmap for understanding how to better match current and future evidence-based interventions with underlying brain and genetic profiles, so that we can get the right treatment for the right person,” said Principal Investigator Kevin Pelphrey. He is an autism expert at the University of Virginia Medical School and Brain Institute.

“It advances our understanding of autism at large by revealing that there may well be different causes for boys than girls,” Pelphrey added in a college press release.

For the study, the researchers combined brain imaging with genetic investigation to learn more about autism in girls.


Functional MRI has been used to examine brain activity during social interactions. He showed that girls with autism use different sections of their brains than girls without autism.

The difference between girls with and without autism was not the same as the difference between boys with and without autism, meaning that the brain mechanisms involved in autism vary by gender, according to the authors of the. study.

The investigators also found that girls with autism had a much larger number of rare variants of active genes during the early development of a region of the brain called the striatum. It is believed that a section of the striatum is involved in the interpretation of social interaction and language.

The results were published on April 16 in the journal Brain.

Ultimately, Pelphrey said, the team hopes to use the findings to generate new autism treatment strategies suitable for girls.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on autism.

SOURCE: University of Virginia, press release, April 20, 2021

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