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Do Children with Autism Have Elevated Fetal Testosterone?

Neurologist, Norman Geschwind, suggested that fetal testosterone may shape sex differences in brain development. Males produce more of this because it is generated by the testes, but females also produce it. Geschwind thought that the action of fetal testosterone on the brain might explain why girls tend to talk earlier than boys and why boys are overrepresented in clinics for language disorders and conditions such as autism. Human fetal testosterone can be measured through a method called amniocentesis. In this study, amniotic fluid was taken from 3,000 women during their pregnancies and was studied with respect to levels of fetal testosterone. Dr. Baron-Cohen determined how many of their children, who at the study of the study would be 4 years or older, had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition, or scored highly on an autism spectrum scale, and tested if these ‘affected’ children had abnormally high levels of fetal testosterone.  Earlier studies in the general population have linked this hormone to social and language development. This study focused on investigating whether it plays a role in the development of autism.