Study finds differences between brains of girls and boys with autism


  • There are differences in how the brains of boys and girls manifest autism.
  • Boys struggle more with language and motor skills than girls.
  • The study authors say that these gender differences could lead to a better diagnosis of autism in boys and girls.

New research shows that the brains of boys and girls with autism function differently, which affects their clinical symptoms in distinct ways.

The study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry identified functional brain organisation markers that distinguish between females and males with autism and predict symptom severity.

The researchers enrolled 773 children with autism, 637 boys and 136 girls. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans of the children. The scientists developed a spatiotemporal deep neural network (stDNN), which extracted informative, functional brain dynamics features that accurately distinguish between females and males with autism.

The study also investigated the clinical symptom difference between the genders. They separately assessed the stDNN-identified neurobiological features with severity of clinical symptoms in females and males.

The differences 

The study found that the differences between boys and girls were found in brain features associated with motor, language and visuospatial attentional systems. The study findings also show that language is one of the areas where boys and girls differ. They cite previous studies that identified more significant language impairments in boys.

However, the stDNN model trained to distinguish between females and males with autism 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.

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