Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 507–515

Visuo-spatial Processing in Autism—Testing the Predictions of Extreme Male Brain Theory

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-007-0419-8

Cite this article as:
Falter, C.M., Plaisted, K.C. & Davis, G. J Autism Dev Disord (2008) 38: 507. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0419-8


It has been hypothesised that autism is an extreme version of the male brain, caused by high levels of prenatal testosterone (Baron-Cohen 1999). To test this proposal, associations were assessed between three visuo-spatial tasks and prenatal testosterone, indexed in second-to-fourth digit length ratios (2D:4D). The study included children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD (= 28), and chronological as well as mental age matched typically-developing children (= 31). While the group with ASD outperformed the control group at Mental Rotation and Figure-Disembedding, these group differences were not related to differences in prenatal testosterone level. Previous findings of an association between Targeting and 2D:4D were replicated in typically-developing children and children with ASD. The implications of these results for the extreme male brain (EMB) theory of autism are discussed.


AutismVisuo-spatial cognition2D:4DPrenatal testosteroneExtreme male brain

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK