Masculine features support 'extreme male brain' theory of autism spectrum disorder

December 11, 2014, Bangor University
Masculine features support ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism spectrum disorder
An example of the images created from high (left) and low (right) scoring ASD symptom scorers.

Recent research from Bangor University has revealed a new spin to a long-standing theory of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

The 'extreme male brain' theory proposed by Simon Baron-Cohen, speculates that ASD is a consequence of elevated pre-natal testosterone levels. In a study recently published in the journal, Clinical Psychological Science, Naomi Scott and colleagues at Bangor University's School of Psychology investigated the possible implications this has for a associated with ASD.

They created two sets of composite images made up of the of individuals scoring high and low for symptoms of ASD. When these images were rated they found males with more symptoms of ASD to be rated as more masculine in appearance.

This finding not only lends support to Baron-Cohen's theory but also connects physical traits and behaviour through hormonal effects. The implications of this are two-fold; firstly from a clinical perspective they demonstrate the existence of associated with ASD that are identifiable by untrained observers - that males with ASD are hyper-masculine in facial appearance. Second are social consequences of these perceptions. Highly masculine males are perceived to be dominant and aggressive, characteristics not in tune with the classic perception of individuals with ASD.

Naomi Scott, who completed this research as part of a PhD funded by the Economic and Social Research Council said:

"One of the consequences of ASD is impaired social skills and these findings suggest an additional barrier for individuals with the disorder to overcome. We make assessments about an individual's personality from first glance using cues from , which we then use to gauge how to interact with that individual. If these cues don't match the person's behaviour, the interaction may be jilted from the offset, amplifying existing social skills problems for individuals with ASD."

Explore further: Facial motion a clue to difficulties in social interaction among autistic adults

More information: Scott, N. J., Jones, A. L., Kramer, R. S. S., & Ward, R. (In press). "Facial dimorphism in Autistic Quotient scores." Clinical Psychological Science.

Related Stories

Facial motion a clue to difficulties in social interaction among autistic adults

November 13, 2014
People on the autistic spectrum may struggle to recognise social cues, unfamiliar people or even someone's gender because of an inability to interpret changing facial expressions, new research has found.

Why do people with autism see faces differently?

November 26, 2014
The way people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gather information - not the judgement process itself - might explain why they gain different perceptions from peoples' faces, according to a new study from Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies ...

Combination of autism spectrum disorder and gender nonconformity presents unique challenges

December 2, 2014
The challenges in providing psychotherapy to individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who also are struggling with their gender identity are explored in two case studies of high-functioning persons with diagnoses ...

Making the brain take notice of faces in autism

August 15, 2013
Difficulty in registering and responding to the facial expressions of other people is a hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Relatedly, functional imaging studies have shown that individuals with ASD display altered ...

Gene variation links to autistic-like traits

October 28, 2014
Researchers have confirmed an association between a genetic mutation and a higher level of autistic-like traits in individuals.

Siblings of children with autism can show signs at 18 months

October 16, 2014
About 20% of younger siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will develop the condition by age 3. A new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers has found that 57% of these younger siblings who later ...

Recommended for you

Scientists reverse a sensory impairment in mice with autism

September 25, 2018
Using a genetic technique that allows certain neurons in the brain to be switched on or off, UCLA scientists reversed a sensory impairment in mice with symptoms of autism, enabling them to learn a sensory task as quickly ...

Latest research hints at predicting autism risk for pregnant mothers

September 21, 2018
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—led by Juergen Hahn, professor and head of biomedical engineering—are continuing to make remarkable progress with their research focused on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ...

Scientists reveal drumming helps schoolchildren diagnosed with autism

September 14, 2018
Drumming for 60 minutes a week can benefit children diagnosed with autism and supports learning at school, according to a new scientific study.

Overlapping copy number variations underlie autism and schizophrenia in Japanese patients

September 11, 2018
Common genetic variants may underlie autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia across human populations, according to a study appearing September 11th in the journal Cell Reports. In line with previous studies in Caucasians, ...

New biomarker panel could accelerate autism diagnoses

September 6, 2018
Investigators at the UC Davis MIND Institute and NeuroPointDX, a division of Stemina Biomarker Discovery, have identified a group of blood metabolites that could help detect some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ...

Depression strikes nearly one in five young adults with autism: study

August 31, 2018
(HealthDay)—Depression affects almost 20 percent of young adults with autism, new research shows, a rate that's more than triple that seen in the general population.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2014
This "research" sounds more like Sascha than like Simon.
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 11, 2014
This is ABSURD!!!!!!!!!!! If you really want to "study" autism, then do a vaccinated VS non vaccinated study....There's your answer to millions of kids who have this disorder. What a waste of time for these children, looking at "facial appearance". I am so tired of reading the BS studies done that show absolutely nothing. And NOT ONE study done on vaccinated VS non vaccinated. There are SO many studies that have been done showing a correlation to autism and environmental assaults, but the mainstream media refuses to report. If you are interested you can start with looking up the CDC Whistleblower Dr. Thompson......
1 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2014
They are looking at everything but the glaring factor: radiofrequency radiation has exploded into the environment. See the presentation on study of mice from Johns Hopkins scientist, and other presentations, at C4ST in the MD Symposium. For heaven's sake, voltage gated calcium exchanges are flipped on, and blood brain barrier is harmed and therefore, leaks, and hormones that protect sleep and from cancers are depleted by the RF allowed by FCC. The industry RUNS everything, thus, the science showing the harm of RF and microwaves is suppressed or ignored. We are no longer at "let's take precautions." We are at emergency action time here to save people, including fetuses, from radiofrequency radiation - a biological hazard.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2014
Here are the flaws in the 'extreme male brain' theory. Those who have more testosterone, whether by voluntarily adding it or by natural abundance, have the following traits over those who have normal levels:
greater sexual drive; balding, increased muscle mass and bone density, shorter temper and greater aggression, greater confidence and desire to dominate.

None of these traits are found consistently in Autistic people. Indeed, some minor properties of higher testosterone must be substantially amplified to arrive at the Barron-Cohen conjecture. Muscle building autistic individuals are all but unknown among autistic people and those with *low testosterone* levels. Thus one could actually make the opposite case to the 'extreme male brain' theory just as stridently, if not more so.

A fail on this one...almost as amusing as his brother's work.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2014
Now, now. At least they're trying. My youngest that has autism would actually exemplify the extreme male theory. He isn't bald, yet, though. He definitely has muscle mass and bone density, a short fuse, I've got his aggression down (knock on wood), and he thinks he should be in charge at all times. He's only 7 and already super strong, so getting the behaviors under control now is my only option. Not super attached to any schedule as long as he gets to do what he wants, which included jumping on the trampoline this morning instead of getting ready for school like he was supposed to. What traits have been found consistently in autistic people? This could be a subtype? About the only thing I've seen that they are finding consistently in all children with autism is brain inflammation.
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2014
And again, the media leaves out the manufacturer's insert to the vaccines they create that clearly list "autism" as a side effect. The makers themselves admit it. But let's blame everything else BUT big pHARM.
Fabio P_
5 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2014
This is ABSURD!!!!!!!!!!! If you really want to "study" autism, then do a vaccinated VS non vaccinated study....

Enough already. This has been researched to death, and time and again no correlation is found between vaccinations and autism incidence. How long do you guys intend on clinging to the fantasy that "no study has been done" to test this?

not rated yet Dec 16, 2014

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.