If fetal testosterone plays an important role in autism, women with autism should be especially masculinized in certain ways. Some evidence suggests that this is true. Girls with autism show “tomboyism” in their toy-choice preferences. On average, women with autism and their mothers also have an elevated rate of polycystic ovary syndrome, which is caused by excess testosterone and involves irregular menstrual cycles, delayed onset of puberty and hirsutism (excessive body hair).
Prenatal testosterone, if it is involved in autism, is not acting alone. It behaves epigenetically, changing gene expression, and interacts with other important molecules. Similarly, the link between autism and systemizing, if confirmed through further studies, is unlikely to account for the full complexity of autism genetics. And we should not draw the simplistic conclusion that all technical-minded people carry genes for autism.
This article was originally published with the title Autism and the Technical Mind.