A link between masculine facial features and autism has been discovered by researchers from The University of Western Australia, Telethon Kids Institute and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.
Genetic factors are known to play a major role in ASD however there is growing evidence that hormonal factors also influence development of the condition.
A computer algorithm designed by UWA researchers was used to generate a gender score for a sample of 3-D facial images to create a scale ranging from very masculine to very feminine. The gender scores were based on an analysis for 11 facial features such as breadth of a person's nose, distance between the outer corners of the eyes, upper lip height and width of the mouth and were compared between an autistic group and a control group. A total 113 girls and 102 boys who were not autistic and 20 girls and 54 boys who were autistic were involved in the study. For each sex, increased facial masculinity was observed in the ASD group compared to the control group.
Further analysis revealed that increased facial masculinity in the group with autism correlated with more social communication difficulties as measured on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale.
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