Autistic Traits in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Saturday, May 19, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
9:00 AM
S. Herguner1, H. Harmancı1, A. Herguner1 and H. Toy2, (1)Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Meram Faculty of Medicine, Konya, Turkey, (2)Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Meram Faculty of Medicine, Konya, Turkey

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder of reproductive-aged women. It is characterized by androgen excess, chronic oligoanovulation and polycystic ovaries on ultrasound. Its etiology remains largely unknown however several studies suggested that prenatal androgen exposure might contribute to development of PCOS.


An association between sex-steroid hormones and autism spectrum conditions (ASC) is established. Prenatal androgen levels are associated with autistic traits, and several genes involved in steroidogenesis are associated with autism. Furthermore, higher rates of androgen-related conditions including PCOS, hirsutism and acne are reported in women with ASC.

In this study, we aimed to measure the autistic traits in women with PCOS.


Forty females who had a clinical diagnosis of PCOS based on Rotterdam diagnostic criteria were recruited for the study group. For comparison, regularly cycling healthy controls who agreed to participate in the study (n = 40), none of whom met the diagnostic criteria for PCOS, were recruited in control groups. A physical examination was performed by the same physician on all women in Gynecology Department. All participants were then invited to complete the Autism Quotient (AQ). The study was approved by the Meram Faculty of Medicine Ethical Committee, Konya, Turkey.

The AQ is a 50-item, self-report questionnaire, which assesses social skills, communication skills, imagination abilities, attention switching, and attention to details. The higher the score on the AQ, the more autistic traits the individual possesses.


There were no significant differences in age, education, and BMI between groups. Total AQ and Communication scores were statistically higher in females with PCOS (Table 1). Correlation analysis revealed that there was no effect of age and BMI on AQ scores.

Table 1: Means (± SD) for total AQ and subscale scores by group.



n = 40


n = 40

p value

Social skills

3.40 ± 1.76

3.05 ± 1.77



2.25 ± 1.53

1.55 ± 1.30



3.43 ± 1.63

3.08 ± 1.35


Attention to detail

6.23 ± 1.69

5.65 ± 2.25


Attention switching

4.93 ± 1.72

4.50 ± 1.26


Total AQ

20.28 ± 5.04

17.83 ± 3.57



This study showed that autistic traits were higher in women with PCOS than healthy controls which confirms that prenatal exposure to high levels of androgen may be involved in development of ASC. Further studies are needed to investigate the association between PCOS and ASC.

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