Of autism’s many mysteries, one that is particularly intriguing is the sex bias: Four times as many boys are affected as girls.
If rodents were perfect disease models, we’d have an ironclad hypothesis for this bias.
Scads of studies on mice and rats have shown that males, because of testosterone surging through their brains, are more sensitive to stress during early development than females are. Their brains are primed to express fear and social anxiety, which, in turn, lead to social avoidance — a characteristic feature of autism.
But obviously mice aren’t people, and we know very little about whether testosterone acts in a similar way in the human brain. Considering the robust evidence in animals, however, this area deserves much more attention from autism researchers, argues a review published earlier this month in Autism Research.
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