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Autism, Head Size and Growth Hormones

Posted Sep 12 2008 3:23am

Conor is 11, with Autism Disorder and profound developmental delays. This description is derived from pediatric diagnosis and psychological assessment. He is also a big boy with a big head. He comes by his size naturally because his Dad is a big man with a big head [no smart aleck comments please :-) ]. His Dad is not autistic. But is there a relationship between Conor's size and his Autism Disorder? Maybe, according to a study by Mills, James L.; Hediger, Mary L.; Molloy, Cynthia A.; Chrousos, George P.; Manning-Courtney, Patricia; Yu, Kai F.; Brasington, Mark; England, Lucinda J. published in Clinical Endocrinology, Volume 67 Issue 2 Page 230-237, August 2007.

In Elevated levels of growth-related hormones in autism and autism spectrum disorder the authors. followed up on earlier research suggesting a relationship between autism disorders and larger head circumferences by measuring the height, weight and head circumference of 71 boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder and comparing them with the measurements for a control group of 59 boys without ASD. They also took blood samples from the boys in the two groups to test for levels of IGF-1 and 2, IGFBP-3, growth hormone binding protein (GHBP) and for dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulphate (DHEAS).

The researchers found that the boys with ASD had significantly greater head circumferences than the control group boys, greater weights and significantly greater body mass indices. There were no significant differences in height. Levels of IGF-1, IGF-2, IGFBP-3 and GHBP in the group with autism/ASD were all significantly higher than in controls. From these findings the researchers concluded that the significantly higher hormone levels could explain the significantly bigger head circumferences, weights and body mass indices of the boys with autism/ASD and suggested that future research should examine the potential role of growth-related hormones in the pathophysiology of autism.

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