Fetal steroid hormones: a longitudinal study

In the Cambridge Child Development Study we have been testing if fetal 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 fetal testosterone is inversely associated with social development, language development, and empathy; and that fetal testosterone is postively associated with systemizing, attention to detail, and number of autistic traits. We are collaborating with colleagues in the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and demonstrated elevated levels of fetal testosterone and the related sex steroid hormones in the delta-4 pathway in those who later receive a diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition. The rationale for testing fetal testosterone and the sex steroids comes from animal studies which suggest these hormones, prenatally, masculinize 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, fetal sex steroids may be an important candidate biological mechanism to help understand the phenotype.


Selected References

608: S Baron-Cohen, B Auyeung, B Nørgaard-Pedersen, D Hougaard, M Abdallah, L Melgaard, A Cohen, B Chakrabarti, L Ruta, and M Lombardo (2015)
Elevated fetal steroidogenic activity in autism
Molecular Psychiatry 20:369-376

534: M Lombardo, E Ashwin, B Auyeung, B Chakrabarti, M Lai, K Taylor, G Hackett, E Bullmore, S Baron-Cohen (2012)
Fetal Programming Effects of Testosterone on the Reward System and Behavioral Approach Tendencies in Humans
Biological Psychiatry 72:839–847

526: B. Auyeung, R. Knickmeyer, E. Ashwin, K. Taylor, G Hackett, S. Baron-Cohen (2012)
Effects of Fetal Testosterone on Visuospatial Ability
Archives of Sexual Behaviour 41:571-581

525: M.V. Lombardo, E. Ashwin, B. Auyeung, B. Chakrabarti, K. Taylor, G. Hackett, E. T. Bullmore, S. Baron-Cohen (2012)
Fetal Testosterone Influences Sexually Dimorphic Gray Matter in the Human Brain
The Journal of Neuroscience 32(2):674-680

507: S. Baron-Cohen, M. Lombardo, B Auyeung, E. Ashwin, B. Chakrabarti, R. Knickmeyer (2011)
Why Are Autism Spectrum Conditions More Prevalent in Males?
PLoS Biology 9(6):e1001081

478: B. Auyeung, K. Taylor, K, G. Hackett, G, S. Baron-Cohen (2010)
Foetal testosterone and autistic traits in 18 to 24-month-old children
Molecular Autism 1:11

411: B. Auyeung, S. Baron-Cohen, E. Ashwin, R. Knickmeyer, K. Taylor, G. Hackett (2009)
Fetal testosterone and autistic traits
British Journal of Psychology 100:1-22

362: E. Chapman, S. Baron-Cohen, B. Auyeung, R. Knickmeyer, K. Taylor and G. Hackett (2006)
Fetal testosterone and empathy: Evidence from the Empathy Quotient (EQ) and the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test
Social Neuroscience 1:135-148

330: B. Auyeung, S. Baron-Cohen, E. Chapman, R. Knickmeyer, K. Taylor and G. Hackett (2006)
Foetal testosterone and the Child Systemizing Quotient (SQ-C)
European Journal of Endrocrinology 155:S123-S130

232: R. Knickmeyer, S. Baron-Cohen, P. Raggatt and K. Taylor (2005)
Foetal testosterone, social relationships, and restricted interests in children
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 46(2):198-210

180: S. Lutchmaya, S. Baron-Cohen and P. Raggatt (2002)
Foetal testosterone and vocabulary size in 18- and 24-month-old infants
Infant Behavior & Development 24:418-424

179: S. Lutchmaya, S. Baron-Cohen and P. Raggatt (2002)
Foetal testosterone and eye contact in 12-month-old human infants
Infant Behavior & Development 25:327-335

159: J. Manning, S. Baron-Cohen, S. Wheelwright and G. Sanders (2001)
The 2nd to 4th digit ratio and autism
Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 43:160-164

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