Sexual Dimorphism in Autism

Autism occurs 4 times more often in males. Such sexual dimorphism isn’t uncommon–after all, women are more likely to get depression, and men are more likely to be left-handed–but in many cases we don’t really know why (or, really, how).

In the case of autism, there might now be a clue in the way proteins are regulated. As it turns out, proteins in women’s brains are more tightly regulated by a process called phosphorylation than they are in men’s brains–and this includes a large number of proteins associated with autism.

It actually makes a lot of sense for women’s brains to be more protected than men’s, since women have had the bulk of the responsibility of taking care of the offspring. This is also why men tend to get much sicker than women when they get sick. Women’s bodies are designed to be more resilient and to have more stamina than men’s, and this resilience goes all the way down to the level of molecular biology.

8 thoughts on “Sexual Dimorphism in Autism

    1. Yes, women are underdiagnosed. There is a degree of bias, and there is a degree of autism being expressed differently in women. The fact is genes are expressed differently in males and females (sex is different from gender, and this issue has nothing to do with gender, but with the kinds of chromosomes one has), and that makes a difference in behaviors. In the sense that there genes are present, of course it’s 1:1, but in the sense that the genes are regulated differently, you would expect differences in the way it’s expressed in men vs. women.

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      1. I have a B.A. in recombinant gene technology and two years of graduate work in molecular biology. My Ph.D. dissertation was titled “Evolutionary Aesthetics” and involved discussions of the role of genes and gene regulation in the formation of the brain as the foundation of the creation and appreciation of art and literature.

        The Nature article talks about something that happens extremely rarely–around 1% of the time at most–and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the high degree of gender fluidity in autistics. That, I suspect, has more to do with our tendency to not give a rat’s ass what society has to say about anything, along with our radical egalitarianism.

        You might want to browse this website a little more. It should make it more than abundantly clear that I have much more than a passing knowledge of chromosomes, genes, molecular biology, or neurobiology.

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      2. I know, it’s a waste of time to have your ideology challenged by facts, or to have discussions with people more knowledgeable than you are. The important thing is to think you’re right, not to be right.

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  1. Im not so sure about the gender ratio. But autistic women often function, autistic men don’t. It is just more likely for them to get diagnosed. Women try more to fit in. Evolutionary, this makes sense: if a pregnant woman or a mother with small children
    looses the groups protection, her children die. A man might survive alone. Women, autistic or not, are wired like this.

    And for men getting more sick: only when a woman gives birth for the first time she can relate what a man has to suffer having the flu…😀

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