Gaze Following Is Related to the Broader Autism Phenotype in a Sex-Specific Way: Building the Case for Distinct Male and Female Autism Phenotypes

Elisabeth M. Whyte, Kathyrn Suzanne Scherf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The search for a female autism phenotype is difficult, given the low diagnostic rates in females. Here, we studied potential sex differences in a core feature of autism, difficulty with eye gaze processing, among typically developing individuals who vary in the broad autism phenotype, which includes autistic-like traits that are common, continuously distributed, and similarly heritable in males and females. Participants viewed complex images of an actor in a naturalistic scene looking at one of many possible objects and had to identify the target gazed-at object. Among males, those high in autistic-like traits exhibited worse eye gaze following performance than did those low in these traits. Among females, eye gaze following behavior did not vary with autistic-like traits. These results suggest that deficient eye gaze following behavior is part of the broader autism phenotype for males, but may not be a part of the female autism phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-287
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

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Autistic Disorder
Phenotype
Sex Characteristics

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology

Cite this

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abstract = "The search for a female autism phenotype is difficult, given the low diagnostic rates in females. Here, we studied potential sex differences in a core feature of autism, difficulty with eye gaze processing, among typically developing individuals who vary in the broad autism phenotype, which includes autistic-like traits that are common, continuously distributed, and similarly heritable in males and females. Participants viewed complex images of an actor in a naturalistic scene looking at one of many possible objects and had to identify the target gazed-at object. Among males, those high in autistic-like traits exhibited worse eye gaze following performance than did those low in these traits. Among females, eye gaze following behavior did not vary with autistic-like traits. These results suggest that deficient eye gaze following behavior is part of the broader autism phenotype for males, but may not be a part of the female autism phenotype.",
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