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expert reaction to study on autism and oestrogen in the womb

Research, published in Molecular Psychiatry, reports that prenatal oestrogens contribute to autism likelihood.


Dr James Findon, Lecturer in Psychology Education, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London (IoPPN), said:

“This a scientifically robust study, but we need to see replication in an independent cohort to really trust the results. There is hardly any work on prenatal oestrogen in autism, so while this is a good first step, we have to be cautious and not get carried away.

“This novel study gives us an interesting insight into the role of sex hormones as a potential cause of autism. However, it cannot and should not be interpreted as a way to screen for autism. Furthermore, as the study only looked at males, we do not know if the results are also true of females with the condition.

“It is unknown exactly how prenatal sex steroid hormones may impact neurodevelopment. But this study lays the groundwork for future studies to investigate this relationship further.”


Foetal oestrogens and autism’ by Baron-Cohen et al. was published in Molecular Psychiatry at 08:30 UK time on Monday 29 July. 

DOI: 10.1038/s41380-019-0454-9


Declared interests

None received. 

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