University of Virginia to Lead Multi-Year Study on Autism Differences Between Boys and Girls

A team of researchers from the University of Virginia is spearheading a project aimed at understanding how autism spectrum disorders differ in boys and girls. The project will be funded through the National Institute of Health’s Autism Centers of Excellence Program.

Currently, there is a lack of information about autism’s manifestation in girls, and boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed with the condition. This means that many girls are never diagnosed and could be missing out on beneficial interventions.

The new project plans to follow a sample of children over the course of many years, all the way to adulthood. The researchers will use high-tech brain scans to illuminate their understanding of autism spectrum disorders. Furthermore, the team plans to identify sex differences in brain development with children with autism, use gene sequencing to link gene variations with the degree of brain abnormality, use those findings to predict children’s outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood, and validate those findings via collaboration with people with autism spectrum disorders.

“Our approach has the advantage of understanding how autism emerges out of interactions between genetic differences, changes in neural circuity and differences in thinking and acting,” said Kevin Pelphrey, a professor at the University of Virginia and leader of the study. “This better captures the complex and developmental nature of autism spectrum disorders.”

The researchers hope to facilitate the transition into adulthood for people with autism. Additionally, they hope to shed light on the disorder in girls and provide the best interventions for both girls and boys affected by the disorder.

“Our goals include providing a much better understanding of the differences in how autism manifests in girls versus boys,” Pelphrey said. “We want to use the knowledge we gain to help us get the right treatment to the right individual at the right time.”

Filed Under: Research/Study


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