The sex hormone link in autism: New findings

A central fact about autism is that it’s much more prevalent among males than females.

Scientists of Georgia Regents University in Augusta say a sex hormone that helps protect females from stroke may also reduce their risk of autism.

The researchers have found that the expression of estrogen receptor beta is significantly decreased in autistic brains. The receptor also plays a role in locomotion as well as behavior, including anxiety, depression, memory and learning.

Dr. Anilkumar Pillai, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia at GRU and corresponding author of the study in Molecular Autism, says the findings about estrogen receptor beta as well as that of an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen could help explain the high testosterone levels in autistic individuals and higher autism rates in males.

Pillai says the study’s findings may possibly point toward a new treatment.

Here is a GHN video interview with Pillai, courtesy of Georgia Regents University.