Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen
University of Cambridge | Cam · Autism Research Centre (ARC)

Phd MPhil

About

987
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Publications

Publications (987)
Article
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The ratio of index to ring finger (2D:4D) has been hypothesised to indicate prenatal androgen exposure, yet evidence for its validity is lacking. We report the first pre-registered study to investigate mothers’ early pregnancy sex hormone concentrations in relation to their children’s digit ratios measured at 18-22-month follow-up. Although the tes...
Article
Background Studying the neural processing of faces can illuminate the mechanisms of compromised social expertise in autism. To resolve a longstanding debate, we examined whether differences in configural face processing in autism are underpinned by quantitative differences in the activation of typical face processing pathways, or the recruitment of...
Article
Background Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of neurodevelopmental conditions associated with quantitative differences in cortical and subcortical brain morphometry. Qualitative assessment of brain morphology provides complementary information on the possible underlying neurobiology. Studies of neuroradiological findings in ASD have rendere...
Article
Objective: There is limited evidence about the cross-cultural validity of autistic symptoms in school-aged children in Brazil. Methods: We translated the Childhood Autism Spectrum Test scale to Brazilian Portuguese and performed factor analyses to investigate the factor structure of parent-reported autistic symptoms in a large sample (N = 8571)...
Article
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Assortative mating is a phenomenon in which romantic partners typically resemble each other at a level greater than chance. There is converging evidence that social behaviours are subject to assortative mating, though less is known regarding social cognition. Social functioning requires the ability to identify and understand the mental states of ot...
Article
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The substantial phenotypic heterogeneity in autism limits our understanding of its genetic etiology. To address this gap, here we investigated genetic differences between autistic individuals ( n max = 12,893) based on core and associated features of autism, co-occurring developmental disabilities and sex. We conducted a comprehensive factor analys...
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Microdeletions at the 22q11.2 locus are associated with increased risk for schizophrenia. Recent work has demonstrated that antipsychotic naïve 22q11.2 carriers display elevated levels of dopamine synthesis capacity (DSC) as assessed by ¹⁸F-DOPA PET imaging. While this is consistent with a role for abnormal dopamine function in schizophrenia, it is...
Preprint
Autism and related neurodevelopmental traits are more prevalent in males. Placental complications are also more frequent in male pregnancies. It is unclear if sex differences in placental function can predict sex differences in autistic traits. To assess this, concentrations of angiogenesis-related markers, placental growth factor (PlGF) and solubl...
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Background Recent research suggests that autistic individuals have shorter lifespans and experience worse health (greater health burden) than non-autistic individuals. Small, qualitative studies suggest that autistic adults also experience poor self-reported healthcare quality. Methods An anonymized, cross-sectional, self-report questionnaire was...
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It has been hypothesised that romantic partners are more similar than chance in relation to autistic traits. To test this theory, we recruited n = 105 heterosexual couples and examined within-couple correlations for autistic traits [measured using the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)], empathizing [measured using the Empathy Quotient (EQ)], and system...
Preprint
Background We aimed to assess whether autistic individuals were able to generalise across contexts when building statistical expectations of their environment to the same extent as non-autistic individuals. We did this by assessing the implicit awareness of statistical regularities in a sequence of naturalistic scene images in both autistic and non...
Preprint
Background We aimed to assess whether autistic individuals were able to generalise across contexts when building statistical expectations of their environment to the same extent as non-autistic individuals. We did this by assessing the implicit awareness of statistical regularities in a sequence of naturalistic scene images in both autistic and non...
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Background: Understanding the development of the neuronal circuitry underlying autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is critical to shed light into its etiology and for the development of treatment options. Resting state EEG provides a window into spontaneous local and long-range neuronal synchronization and has been investigated in many ASD studies, but...
Article
Background The cerebellum contains more than 50% of the brain neurons and is involved in social cognition. Cerebellar anatomical atypicalities have repeatedly been reported in individuals with autism. However, studies have yielded inconsistent findings, likely because of a lack of statistical power, and did not capture the clinical and neuroanatomi...
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Background: Social attention affords learning opportunities across development and may contribute to individual differences in developmental trajectories, such as between male and female individuals, and in neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism. Methods: Using eye-tracking, we measured social attention in a large cohort of autistic (n =...
Preprint
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Discriminating between similar scenes proves to be a remarkably demanding task due to the limited capacity of our visual cognitive processes. Here we examine how visual scene discrimination is modulated by perceptual differences arising from neurodiversity. A large sample of autistic (n = 140) and typical (n = 147) participants completed two visual...
Preprint
BACKGROUND Sensory atypicalities are particularly common in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Nevertheless, our knowledge about the divergence of the underlying somatosensory region and its association with ASD phenotype features is limited. METHODS We applied a data-driven approach to map the fine-grained variations in functional connectivity of t...
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Over the past few decades, neuroimaging has become a ubiquitous tool in basic research and clinical studies of the human brain. However, no reference standards currently exist to quantify individual differences in neuroimaging metrics over time, in contrast to growth charts for anthropometric traits such as height and weight ¹ . Here we assemble an...
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Qualitative accounts indicate there are sensory and communication related barriers to adequate childbirth and postnatal healthcare for autistic people. However, little quantitative work has explored the topic. This online survey study explored childbirth and postnatal experiences among 384 autistic and 492 non-autistic people. Compared with non-aut...
Preprint
Full-text available
Discriminating between similar scenes proves to be a remarkably demanding task due to the limited capacity of our visual cognitive processes. Here we examine how visual scene discrimination is modulated by perceptual differences arising from neurodiversity. A large sample of autistic (n=140) and typical (n=147) participants completed two visual sce...
Article
Full-text available
Maternal immune activation (MIA) is mediated by activation of inflammatory pathways resulting in increased levels of cytokines and chemokines that cross the placental and blood-brain barriers altering fetal neural development. Maternal viral infection is one of the most well-known causes for immune activation in pregnant women. MIA and immune abnor...
Article
Objective: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that is associated with significant difficulties in adaptive behavior and variation in clinical outcomes across the life span. Some individuals with ASD improve, whereas others may not change significantly, or regress. Hence, the development of "personalized medic...
Preprint
Objectives The male preponderance in autism spectrum conditions (ASC) prevalence is among the most pronounced sex ratios across different neurodevelopmental conditions. Here, we aimed to elucidate the relationship between autism and typical sex-differential neuroanatomy, cognition, and related gene expression. Methods Using a novel deep learning f...
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We investigate whether autistic people's vulnerability is taken into account at each stage of the criminal justice system (CJS). Defense lawyers from 12 nations were included in the study although the sample was predominantly from the UK. Lawyers completed an online survey regarding one case in which they had defended an autistic client between Jan...
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Recent data has revealed dissociations between social and non-social skills in both autistic and neurotypical populations. In the present study, we investigated whether specific visuospatial abilities, such as figure disembedding and mental rotation, are differently related to social and non-social autistic traits, in neurotypical women and men. Un...
Preprint
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Background Although many studies have explored atypicalities in gray and white matter (GM, WM) morphology of autism, most of them rely on unimodal analyses that do not benefit from the likelihood that different imaging modalities may reflect common neurobiology. We aimed to establish multimodal brain patterns that differentiate between autism and t...
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Background Autism and autistic traits are risk factors for suicidal behaviour. Aims To explore the prevalence of autism (diagnosed and undiagnosed) in those who died by suicide, and identify risk factors for suicide in this group. Method Stage 1: 372 coroners’ inquest records, covering the period 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2017 from two region...
Article
Lay abstract: Autistic people can have difficulties during pregnancy and after giving birth, such as difficulty getting health care that meets their needs. Autistic people may therefore have lower well-being than non-autistic people during this time. We asked autistic and non-autistic people to fill in questionnaires measuring stress, depression,...
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Background Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is triggered by environmental stressors. Empathy may predispose an individual to respond to life events differently if high empathizers are emotionally more sensitive to trauma. For the first time, we test this hypothesis using genetic information. Methods We applied polygenic scoring (PGS) to invest...
Preprint
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An increasing number of large-scale multi-modal research initiatives has been conducted in the typically developing population, as well as in psychiatric cohorts. Missing data is a common problem in such datasets due to the difficulty of assessing multiple measures on a large number of participants. The consequences of missing data accumulate when...
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Background Autism screening is recommended at 18- and 24-month pediatric well visits. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers—Revised (M-CHAT-R) authors recommend a follow-up interview (M-CHAT-R/F) when positive. M-CHAT-R/F may be less accurate for 18-month-olds than 24-month-olds and accuracy for identification prior to two years is not know...
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Background The neurocognitive mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remain unclear. Progress has been largely hampered by small sample sizes, variable age ranges and resulting inconsistent findings. There is a pressing need for large definitive studies to delineate the nature and extent of key case/control differences to direct resea...
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Prenatal testosterone (pT) is a crucial component in physiological masculinization in humans. In line with the Prenatal Sex Steroid Theory of autism, some studies have found a positive correlation between pT and autistic traits in childhood. However, effects in adolescence have not been explored. Hormonal and environmental changes occurring during...
Preprint
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Background: While many autistics report feelings of excessive empathy, their experience is not reflected by most of the current literature, which typically, but not always, suggests that autism is characterized by intact emotional empathy and reduced cognitive empathy. To try and bridge this gap in empirical findings and with respect to individuals...
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Introduction Specialist gender services for children and young people (CYP) worldwide have experienced a significant increase in referrals in recent years. As rates of referrals increase, it is important to understand the characteristics and profile of CYP attending these services in order to inform treatment pathways and to ensure optimal outcomes...
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UNSTRUCTURED The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the uptake of digital health worldwide and highlighted many benefits of these innovations. However, it also stressed the magnitude of inequalities regarding accessing digital health. This article explores the potential benefits of digital technologies for the global population, with particular referenc...
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The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the uptake of digital health worldwide and highlighted many benefits of these innovations. However, it also stressed the magnitude of inequalities regarding accessing digital health. Using a scoping review, this article explores the potential benefits of digital technologies for the global population, with particul...
Article
Objective: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is accompanied by highly individualized neuroanatomical deviations that potentially map onto distinct genotypes and clinical phenotypes. This study aimed to link differences in brain anatomy to specific biological pathways to pave the way toward targeted therapeutic interventions. Methods: The authors ex...
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Introduction Gender identity development services (GIDS) worldwide have seen a significant increase in referrals in recent years. Many of these referrals consist of children and young people (CYP) who experience gender-related distress. This study aims to improve understanding of outcomes of CYP referred to the UK GIDS, specifically regarding gende...
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Lay abstract: Very little research has looked at how autistic people experience childbirth and the first few months of parenthood. We interviewed 21 autistic and 25 non-autistic women 2-3 months after their baby was born, to find out how they experienced giving birth and being a parent. Some autistic participants found sensory aspects of giving bi...
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Small studies suggest significant differences between autistic and nonautistic individuals regarding sexual orientation and behavior. We administered an anonymized, online survey to n = 2386 adults (n = 1183 autistic) aged 16–90 years to describe sexual activity, risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and sexual orientation. Autistic indiv...
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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will have a high impact on older adults and people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Social cognition enables the understanding of another individual's feelings, intentions, desires and mental states, which is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. To prevent further spread...
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Internalising problems are common within Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); early intervention to support those with emerging signs may be warranted. One promising signal lies in how individual differences in temperament are shaped by parenting. Our longitudinal study of infants with and without an older sibling with ASD investigated how parenting ass...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is triggered by environmental stressors. Empathy may predispose an individual to respond to life events differently if high empathizers are emotionally more sensitive to trauma. For the first time, we test this hypothesis at the genetic level. Methods We applied polygenic scoring (PGS) to investigate...
Preprint
Full-text available
Assortative mating (AM) is a phenomenon in which romantic partners typically resemble each other at a level greater than chance. There is converging evidence that social behaviours are subject to AM, though less is known regarding social cognition. Social functioning requires the ability to identify and understand the mental states of others, i.e.,...
Article
Full-text available
Background Autistic individuals might be more likely to misuse substances than non-autistic individuals. Better understanding of these patterns can help clinicians identify strategies to reduce substance use, protecting physical and mental health. The aim of this study was to compare the experiences of substance use between autistic and non-autisti...
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Lay abstract: Alcohol use and misuse are associated with a variety of negative physical, psychological and social consequences. The limited existing research on substance use including alcohol use in autistic adults has yielded mixed findings, with some studies concluding that autism reduces the likelihood of substance use and others suggesting th...
Article
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Lay abstract: Sex-steroids, such as testosterone, are thought to be one of the biological factors implicated in autism. This relies on the sex bias in the diagnosis of autism (boys are approximately four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls) and findings of associations with fetal testosterone levels in traits and abilities related to auti...
Preprint
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Background: Oxytocin is hypothesized to promote positive social interactions by enhancing the salience of social stimuli, which may be reflected by altered amygdala activation. While previous neuroimaging studies have reported that oxytocin enhances amygdala activation to emotional face stimuli in autistic men, effects in autistic women remain uncl...
Article
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We aimed to test the hypothesis that quantitative traits associated with autism spectrum conditions are subject to assortative mating. Study 1 examined self-reported autistic traits (Autism Spectrum Quotient [AQ]), systemizing (Systemizing Quotient-Revised [SQ-R]) and empathizing (Empathy Quotient [EQ]), as well as behavioral measures related to so...
Preprint
Full-text available
Over the past 25 years, neuroimaging has become a ubiquitous tool in basic research and clinical studies of the human brain. However, there are no reference standards against which to anchor measures of individual differences in brain morphology, in contrast to growth charts for traits such as height and weight. Here, we built an interactive online...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Camouflaging (also referred to as ‘masking’) is a commonly reported strategy used by autistic adults in everyday life to help them cope in social situations. Autistic adults report that camouflaging can have a devastating effect on mental health and wellbeing, yet little is known about the lived experiences of camouflaging and its impac...
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Introduction The literature has demonstrated how the relationship between cognitive or emotional intelligence and age exhibits an inverted-U-shape and that this decline can be mitigated by an individual’s cognitive reserve (CR). Rather less is known, however, about the pattern of changes in cognitive empathy or the ability to recognize the thoughts...
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Social-communication (SC) and restricted repetitive behaviors (RRB) are autism diagnostic symptom domains. SC and RRB severity can markedly differ within and between individuals and may be underpinned by different neural circuitry and genetic mechanisms. Modeling SC-RRB balance could help identify how neural circuitry and genetic mechanisms map ont...
Chapter
Social communication depends on our ability to understand others’ emotions, motives, and intentions. In order to understand others’ experiences accurately, we often rely on our own experiences. But, complete reliance on own experiences leads to inaccurate and biased interpretation of others’ behaviors. Therefore, a mechanism which allows to differe...
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Background Autism has previously been characterized by both structural and functional differences in brain connectivity. However, while the literature on single-subject derivations of functional connectivity is extensively developed, similar methods of structural connectivity or similarity derivation from T1 MRI are less studied. Methods We introd...
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Background Studies of autistic children suggest that restricted eating, reduced physical activity, and sleep disorders are common; however, no studies attempt to broadly describe the diet, exercise, and sleep patterns of autistic adults or consider relationships between lifestyle behaviors and the widely reported increased risks of obesity and chro...
Preprint
Full-text available
Recent data revealed dissociations between social and non-social domains both in autism and neurotypical population. In the present study, we investigated whether specific visuospatial abilities, as mental rotation and figure disembedding, are differently related to social and non-social autistic traits, also considering sex differences in dealing...
Article
Full-text available
Autistic individuals experience significantly elevated rates of childhood trauma, self-harm and suicidal behaviour and ideation (SSBI). Is this purely the result of negative environmental experiences, or does this interact with genetic predisposition? In this study we investigated if a genetic predisposition for autism is associated with childhood...
Article
Background: Previous research investigating the overlap between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (henceforth, autism) symptoms in population samples have relied on latent variable modeling in which averaged scores representing dimensions were derived from observed symptoms. There are no studies evaluatin...
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en This study explores how autism and education policy are affected by austerity measures in Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Greece by using a path dependence analysis. The implementation of mixed mainstream classrooms and improvements to infrastructure coincided with the ratification of inclusive education policy. Austerity measures appeared tempora...