BIOLOGICAL APPROACH - Is Autism an 'extreme male brain' condition?

  • Male brain structure is different from female brain structure
  • Male brain function is different from female brain function
  • Male hormones affect development
  • Autism may be genetic
  • Autism may be the result of other biological causes
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{ Chelsea Russell…read more

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Autism is a developmental disorder which affects a
child's ability to interact and build relationships with
others, including parents.
It is not usually diagnosed until the age of 3 or 4
years but autism is thought to be present from birth
and many parents of autistic children report noticing
problems well before an official diagnosis is made.
Is Autism an extreme male
brain condition?…read more

Slide 3

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Symptoms of autism can include:
Often, lower than normal language abilities
Low levels of imaginative thinking
Problems with communicating and building social
A preference for order and organisation
A resistance to change
Is Autism an extreme male
brain condition?…read more

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About three quarters of all autistic people are male
so it is a predominantly male condition.
Baron-Cohen et al (2005) suggested that the brain
structure of autistic people is an exaggeration of
normal brain structure.
They are argue that there are many similarities
between the brain structure of an autistic person and
the brain structure of a normal male and that in the
autistic person the brain structure is a more extreme
version of the male brain.
Is Autism an extreme male
brain condition?…read more

Slide 5

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The normal brain is heavier than a female brain as males on
the whole are heavier than females. In people with autism,
the brain is even heavier than a normal male brain (Bailey et
al 1994)
Male brains grow more quickly than female brains during
early development. In people with autism this early growth is
even more rapid.
Normal males have a smaller corpus callosum than normal
females. In people with autism the corpus callosum has been
found to be even smaller than in normal males.
In males, the amygdala is slightly larger than in females.
Brain scans of toddlers with autism have shown that their
amygdala's tend to be abnormally large when compared with
toddlers without autism.
Male brain structure is different
from female brain structure…read more

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Males are generally stronger at spatial tasks such as map
reading than females, and tests with autistic people show that
they seem to be even better at spatial tasks than normal
Males develop language more slowly than females, and
people with autism are very slow to develop language.
Males tend to show more lateralisation of brain functions
such as those related to language skills than women, who
generally show more bilateral brain activity when performing
linguistic tasks. If the extreme male brain theory were to be
believed we would expect tat people with autism would show
stronger than normal brain lateralisation, but they do not.
Male brain function is different
from female brain function…read more

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