Strategies to develop putative biomarkers to characterize the female phenotype with autism spectrum disorders

Elizabeth B. Torres, Robert W. Isenhower, Polina Yanovich, Gwendolyn Rehrig, Kimberly Stigler, John Nurnberger, Jorge V. José

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Current observational inventories used to diagnose autism spectrum disorders (ASD) apply similar criteria to females and males alike, despite developmental differences between the sexes. Recent work investigating the chronology of diagnosis in ASD has raised the concern that females run the risk of receiving a delayed diagnosis, potentially missing a window of opportunity for early intervention. Here, we retake this issue in the context of the objective measurements of natural behaviors that involve decisionmaking processes. Within this context, we quantified movement variability in typically developing (TD) individuals and those diagnosed with ASD across different ages. We extracted the latencies of the decision movements and velocity-dependent parameters as the hand movements unfolded for two movement segments within the reach: movements intended toward the target and withdrawing movements that spontaneously, without instruction, occurred incidentally. The stochastic signatures of the movement decision latencies and the percent of time to maximum speed differed between males and females with ASD. This feature was also observed in the empirically estimated probability distributions of the maximum speed values, independent of limb size. Females with ASD showed different dispersion than males with ASD. The distinctions found for females with ASD were better appreciated compared with those of TD females. In light of these results, behavioral assessment of autistic traits in females should be performed relative to TD females to increase the chance of detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1646-1662
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Autism
  • Decision-making
  • Kinesthetic input
  • Movement decision time
  • Sex differences
  • Stochastic signatures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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