Autism risk higher in boys

June 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


Statistically, boys are four times more likely to be autistic than girls are – something that has puzzled researchers for a number of years. Now a new report this week in Molecular Psychiatry announces that researchers have found a genetic clue that may help explain why. While nearly 40% of the general population has the most common form of the gene CACNA1G, one variant of it was more prevalent in autistic boys, though why is still not clear. It is responsible for regulating the flow of calcium into and out of cells and this is important as nerve cells in the brain rely on calcium to become activated. An imbalance in calcium can result in these neural connections becoming over stimulated, more excitable, and this can create developmental problems, such as autism and even epilepsy. In the next five to ten years this could lead to a much better understanding of the causes of autism as researchers try to use known autism genes to help develop screening tools or early interventions.