Autism: Study shows that gender impacts differences in brain connectivity

A new study has identified key differences in the brain connectivity of men and women who have autism.

The research showed that communication between the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex is particularly pertinent in autism, and experts have said the study reinforces the important role that cerebellum plays in autism.

The cerebellum controls language, emotion and movement, while the cerebral cortex controls memory and sensory perception.

The study found that the women showed a stronger connection between the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex than the control group, whereas the male group displayed a significantly weaker connection than the control.

The study was conducted with 23 autistic girls, as well as 24 female controls, and 56 boys with 65 male controls. The participants were aged 10-62, with the researchers measuring for functional connectivity.

Functional connectivity is described as the extent to which two separate areas of the brain are active at one, and therefore communicating with the other part.

It is not yet known what causes this differential, but it is hoped that the findings will provide insight into the condition, allowing for further research of the brain connectivity in people with autism.

Meng-Chuan Lai, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, said: “It’s really hard to tell whether the sex-differential effect they observed is rooted in biology or if it’s some adaptive response from some of the older autistic females.

“This causality cannot be teased apart, and especially in this sample, because it’s a very wide age range.”

The National Institute of Mental Health plans to test the findings by seeing if the same results occur when the participants are conducting a task.