Testing the 'extreme female brain' theory of psychosis in adults with autism spectrum disorders with or without co-morbid psychosis

Larson, Felicity, Lai, Meng-Chuan, Wagner, Adam P, , MRC AIMS Consortium, Baron-Cohen, Simon and Holland, Anthony J (2015) Testing the 'extreme female brain' theory of psychosis in adults with autism spectrum disorders with or without co-morbid psychosis. PLoS One, 10 (6). ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

Introduction: Males and females in the general population differ, on average, in their drive for empathizing (higher in females) and systemizing (higher in males). People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show a drive for systemizing over empathizing, irrespective of sex, which led to the conceptualisation of ASD as an ‘extreme of the typical male brain’. The opposite cognitive profile, an ‘extreme of the typical female brain’, has been proposed to be linked to conditions such as psychosis and mania/hypomania. Methods: We compared an empathizing-over-systemizing bias (for short ‘empathizing bias’) in individuals with ASD, who had experienced psychotic illness (N = 64) and who had not (N = 71). Results: There were overall differences in the distribution of cognitive style. Adults with ASD who had experienced psychosis were more likely to show an empathizing bias than adults with ASD who had no history of psychosis. This was modulated by IQ, and the group-difference was driven mainly by individuals with above-average IQ. In women with ASD and psychosis, the link between mania/hypomania and an empathizing bias was greater than in men with ASD. Conclusions: The bias for empathizing over systemizing may be linked to the presence of psychosis in people with ASD. Further research is needed in a variety of clinical populations, to understand the role an empathizing bias may play in the development and manifestation of mental illness.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2015 Larson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
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Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 10 May 2016 10:00
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2020 00:44
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/58615
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128102

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