Brain Biology > Autism Spectrum Disorders > Challenges > What is the Main Challenge?

What are the Main Challenges in Autism Research?

First, as noted in the Risk Factors section, Autism Spectrum Disorder has multiple causes. Multiple genes, environmental factors, and epigenetic factors can all play a role. These different causes can also have different effects on how the brain acts and looks.

Second, ASD is known for three very different behavioral deficits: deficits in social interaction; deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication skills; and the presence of repetitive nonfunctional behaviors. Currently, no single brain or psychological theory can take into account all three these deficits.

Third, we do not yet understand why more boys than girls are diagnosed with ASD. Although sexual differences are known for the brain, and boys and girls are known to have different levels of the androgen hormones testosterone and estrogen, we do not fully understand sexual differences in susceptibility to the three types of risk factors, or how these differences affect the developing brain (but see 1).

  1. Baron-Cohen S (2002) The extreme male brain theory of autism. Trends in Cogn Sci 6(6); 248-254.