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Brain study suggests autism develops differently in girls than in boys

THURSDAY, April 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Autism appears to develop differently in girls and boys, so findings from research conducted primarily with boys may not apply to girls, a new study suggests.

Autism spectrum disorder is four times more common in boys, which may help explain why there is much less research on autism in girls.

“This new study provides us with a roadmap to understand how to best combine interventions based on current and future evidence to the underlying brain and genetic profiles, so that we can get the right treatment for the right individual,” said lead investigator Kevin Pelphrey. He is an expert on autism at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Brain Institute.

“This advances our understanding of autism widely, revealing that there can be different causes for boys and girls,” added Pelphrey in a university press release.

For the study, the researchers combined brain imaging with genetic research to learn more about autism in girls.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine brain activity during social interactions. He showed that girls with autism use different sections of their brains than girls without autism.

The difference between girls with and without autism was not the same as the difference between boys with and without autism, which means that the brain mechanisms involved in autism vary depending on gender, according to the study authors.

The researchers also found that girls with autism had a much larger number of rare variants of active genes during the early development of a region of the brain called striatum. It is believed that a section of the striatum is involved in the interpretation of social interaction and language.

The findings were published on April 16 in the journal Brain.

Ultimately, Pelphrey said, the team hopes to use the findings to generate new autism treatment strategies tailored for girls.

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