Neurobiological Issues in Autism

Part of the series Current Issues in Autism pp 191-211

Neurobiological Implications of Sex Differences in Autism

  • Catherine LordAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, University of AlbertaDepartment of Psychology, Glenrose Hospital
  • , Eric SchoplerAffiliated withDivision TEACCH, University of North Carolina

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The nature and meaning of sex differences in autism present a paradox for researchers. On the one hand, one of the most well-established facts about autism is that it occurs with much greater frequency in males than in females. On the other hand, two difficulties quickly become apparent when one tries to move beyond the sex difference in the incidence of autism to its neurobiological implications. First, the theoretical links between sex differences, possible etiologies, and organic mechanisms underlying autism are far from straightforward. While there have been numerous failures to confirm specific hypotheses, few positive findings have emerged. Because of small sample sizes, nonepidemiological samples, and difficulties in balancing factors such as sex and degree of mental retardation within autism, negative findings cannot be taken as conclusive.