Presentation on fetal testosterone, autism, and language impairment

hollier_laurenThis Friday at 10am, Lauren Hollier from the University of Western Australia will be presenting  her PhD research, which looks at the effects of testosterone levels in the womb on later language development. Lauren’s presentation is in the new Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University. All are welcome.

The Relationship Between Prenatal Testosterone and Language Development

Speaker : Lauren Hollier, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia.

Date : 24th of May 2013, 10:00AM until 11:00AM

Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

Abstract: Autism is among the most severe, prevalent and heritable of all neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the factors causing autism are still unclear. Language difficulties are at the core of autism, and any aetiological theory must incorporate a plausible explanation of this symptom. Prenatal exposure to androgens is known to affect fetal brain maturation and later neurocognitive function. However, research on the effects of prenatal androgen exposure has been limited by indirect measures of androgens (e.g. 2D:4D ratio) and small unrepresentative samples. The first aim of my research was to investigate whether circulating fetal testosterone concentrations are associated with language development in early childhood. This was examined in a large-scale prospective pregnancy cohort, using umbilical cord blood as a surrogate measure of prenatal testosterone exposure. The second aim of my research is to investigate a possible neurobiological mechanism underlying the relationship between fetal testosterone concentrations and language development. It has long been speculated that developmental language difficulties may reflect a failure to develop typical cerebral lateralisation. It is predicted that higher umbilical cord testosterone concentrations will be associated with reduced cerebral lateralisation in early adulthood.