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Sex Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Review.

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Mar 05;20(2):9

Authors: Ferri SL, Abel T, Brodkin ES

Abstract
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Neurodevelopmental disorders disproportionately affect males. The mechanisms underlying male vulnerability or female protection are not known and remain understudied. Determining the processes involved is crucial to understanding the etiology and advancing treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we review current findings and theories that contribute to male preponderance of neurodevelopmental disorders, with a focus on autism.
RECENT FINDINGS: Recent work on the biological basis of the male preponderance of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders includes discussion of a higher genetic burden in females and sex-specific gene mutations or epigenetic changes that differentially confer risk to males or protection to females. Other mechanisms discussed are sex chromosome and sex hormone involvement. Specifically, fetal testosterone is involved in many aspects of development and may interact with neurotransmitter, neuropeptide, or immune pathways to contribute to male vulnerability. Finally, the possibilities of female underdiagnosis and a multi-hit hypothesis are discussed. This review highlights current theories of male bias in developmental disorders. Topics include environmental, genetic, and epigenetic mechanisms; theories of sex chromosomes, hormones, neuroendocrine, and immune function; underdiagnosis of females; and a multi-hit hypothesis.

PMID: 29504047 [PubMed – in process]

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