Chapter

The Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism: The Role of Fetal Androgens

Simon Baron-Cohen, Bonnie Auyeung, Emma Ashwin, Rebecca Knickmeyer, Michael Lombardo and Bhismadev Chakrabarti

in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371826
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199965212 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780195371826.003.0062
The Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism: The Role of Fetal Androgens

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  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Neurology
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The higher incidence of autism in male individuals might provide important clues to the etiology of the condition, which has been described as an “extreme of the male brain.” This chapter reviews studies indicating that prenatal testosterone could be involved in the sex differences in key areas of behavior in the general population (social development, language development, empathy, systemizing, and attention to detail) and to the male vulnerability to autism. These studies suggest that variations in fetal testosterone are related to individual differences in cognition and behavior in typically developing children, but caution needs to be taken when extrapolating these results to individuals with autism.

Chapter.  6742 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry ; Neurology ; Neuroscience

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