Foetal testosterone Longitudinal Study
Rebecca Knickmeyer, Simon Baron-Cohen, Bonnie Auyeung, Emma Chapman, Lindsay Chura, Gerald Hackett, Kevin Taylor, Mike Lombardo, Bhismadev Chakrabarti, Liliana Ruta, Amber Ruigrok, and the State Serum Institute (SSI) in Denmark.
We have been testing if foetal testosterone, measured in amniotic fluid obtained via amniocentesis, is associated with later psychological and neural development postnatally.
We have conducted studies of typical individual differences and found that foetal testosterone is inversely associated with social development, language development, and empathy; and that foetal testosterone is postively associated with systemizing and number of autistic traits.
We are collaborating with the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, to extend this study to test if elevated levels of foetal testosterone are associated with a later diagnosis of autism spectrum conditions.
The rationale for testing foetal testosterone comes from animal studies which suggest this hormone, prenatally, masculinizes the brain. Given the sex ratio in autism and Asperger Syndrome, and the masculinized cognitive profile reported in studies of empathy and systemizing in people with these diagnoses, foetal testosterone may be an important candidate biological mechanism to help understand the phenotype.