The ‘genetic burden’, as well as the genes causing autism in girls and boys, are different as per a recent study. This could help in making interventions for kids with autism more relevant to the individual, researchers believe.
The study was conducted at the University of Virginia making use of cutting-edge brain imaging with genetic research. It was recently published in the journal Brain. Researchers say that the conclusions of this study mean that since the genes causing autism in girls and boys are different, the previous research that has been conducted only on boys with autism must not be assumed to hold true for girls.
Lead investigator Kevin Pelphrey, an expert on the topic from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, says this study makes his team believe that there may well be different things causing autism in boys and girls. “This advances our understanding of autism broadly by revealing that there may well be different causes for boys vs. girls; this helps us understand the heterogeneity within and across genders,” he said.
The researchers also found that the brains of boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) respond differently to similar social cues and different brain mechanisms are in action during similar social settings in girls and boys. They believe that the research on autism usually has boys as subjects since the condition is four times as prevalent in boys than in girls, meaning that the effects of the interventions on girls remain poorly researched.
Another big finding was that both genders had different underlying genetic contributors. It also came to light that girls had many more rare variants of genes active in the area of the brain called striatum during the early years. “The convergence of the brain imaging and genetic data provides us with an important new insight into the causes of autism in girls. We hope to leverage our findings to generate new treatment strategies tailored to autistic girls,” Pelphrey said.