Sacramento, Calif.- Autism is far more common in boys than girls – affecting 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls – but little is known about biological differences between boys and girls with autism.
A new study, called the ‘Girls with Autism – Imaging of Neurodevelopment’ or GAIN Study, led by researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute will explore those differences in very young girls with autism.
“We know that the incidence of autism is much lower in girls than it is in boys. But we don’t know much about why that is, and what those differences are,” said Christine Wu Nordahl, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and principal investigator for the study. “Because autism so much more common in boys, girls are often understudied, and we haven’t had the chance to evaluate them in depth.”
To investigate the differences between autism in boys and autism in girls, MIND Institute researchers are seeking very young girls with autism – between the ages of 2 and 3.5 years old – who are recently diagnosed with autism. The researchers alsoare enrolling girls in the same age range who are developing typically.
Study participants will be followed for two years and will receive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and other tests, to help researchers identify differences in brain structure and connectivity between boys and girls with autism.
“A comprehensive understanding of the female phenotype of autism spectrum disorder is a pressing and timely topic, as indicated by national efforts to direct research towards this goal,” Wu Nordahl said.
At the UC Davis MIND Institute, world-renowned scientists engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary research to find the causes of and develop treatments and cures for autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fragile X syndrome, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, Down syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
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