Br J Psychol. 2008 Jun 10. [Epub ahead of print]
Fetal testosterone and autistic traits.
Auyeung B, Baron-Cohen S, Ashwin E, Knickmeyer R, Taylor K, Hackett G.
Studies of amniotic testosterone in humans suggest that fetal testosterone (fT) is related to specific (but not all) sexually dimorphic aspects of cognition and behaviour. It has also been suggested that autism may be an extreme manifestation of some male-typical traits, both in terms of cognition and neuroanatomy. In this paper, we examine the possibility of a link between autistic traits and fT levels measured in amniotic fluid during routine amniocentesis. Two instruments measuring number of autistic traits (the Childhood Autism Spectrum Test (CAST) and the Child Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ-Child)) were completed by these women about their children (N=235), ages 6-10 years. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was measured in a subset of these children (N=74). fT levels were positively associated with higher scores on the CAST and AQ-Child. This relationship was seen within sex as well as when the sexes were combined, suggesting this is an effect of fT rather than of sex per se. No relationships were found between overall IQ and the predictor variables, or between IQ and CAST or AQ-Child. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that prenatal androgen exposure is related to children exhibiting more autistic traits. These results need to be followed up in a much larger sample to test if clinical cases of ASC have elevated fT.