Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading expert on autism, measured the level of testosterone in the amniotic fluid of 235 pregnant women. Later, at aged 8, their children were given a series of tests, designed to pick up autism traits, including whether they preferred social or solitary activities.
This newfound link to the male hormone could provide a way to test for autism inside the womb as the research suggests than abnormally high levels of testosterone in the womb could be one of the triggers for autistic traits to develop up to ten years later.
Baron-Cohen, from Cambridge university, said although the children tested had not been diagnosed with autism, his research had found a correlation between testosterone produced by the unborn babies and the number of autistic traits displayed.
Amanda Batten, head of campaigns for the National Autistic Society said that a test predicting autism could be useful in helping parents prepare and support their child, saying: “There could be some real gains in recognising autism early.”