Androgens and autistic traits: A study of individuals with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
Testosterone promotes male-typical neural and behavioral development in non-human mammals. There is growing evidence that testosterone exerts similar influences on human development, although the range of behaviors affected is not completely known. This study examined the hypothesis that autistic traits are increased following prenatal exposure to abnormally high levels of testosterone caused by congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Sixty individuals with CAH (34 female, 26 male) and 49 unaffected relatives (24 female, 25 male) completed the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Females with CAH scored significantly higher than unaffected females on total AQ score, largely due to enhanced scores on subscales measuring social skills and imagination. These results suggest that prenatal exposure to high levels of testosterone influences some autistic traits and that hormonal factors may be involved in vulnerability to autism.