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Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Gender Mixed Brain

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
J. Eriksson1 and S. Bejerot2, (1)Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (2)Karolinska institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

The ‘extreme male brain theory of autism’ describes that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have an extreme male pattern of systemising ability and empathising weakness. Clinical experience is, however, that this extreme of maleness does not extend to sexually dimorphic traits like sexuality, social behaviour and gender identity.


To compare measures of sexuality, gender identity and social behaviour between adults with and without ASD.


Gender identity and sexuality parameters were measured as a part of a larger controlled study consisting of 50 adults aged 20-47 with high-functioning ASD and 53 age and gender matched neurotypical controls. 


Both males and females in the ASD group reported a decreased sexual drive as well as weak skills concerning assertiveness, leadership and competitiveness. Females in the ASD group reported a less gender identity and increased sexual attraction toward females, while no difference in gender identity or sexual attraction was found between the male groups.


Unlike systematising and empathising, other sexually dimorphic traits and behaviours does not show extreme male tendencies in the autistic brain. The decreased masculinity in terms of territorial behaviour and sexual drive in both sexes and the masculinised gender identity in women only, suggest a more complicated and gender defiant pattern in the neurological wiring of the brain than proposed by the extreme male brain theory.

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