A broad autism phenotype expressed in facial morphology. DW Tan, MT Maybery, SZ Gilani et al.

Date: January 2020.
Source: Translational Psychiatry, Volume 10, Article No. 7.
Abstract: Autism spectrum disorder is a heritable neurodevelopmental condition diagnosed based on social and communication differences. There is strong evidence that cognitive and behavioural changes associated with clinical autism aggregate with biological relatives but in milder form, commonly referred to as the ‘broad autism phenotype’. The present study builds on our previous findings of increased facial masculinity in autistic children (Sci. Rep., 7:9348, 2017) by examining whether facial masculinity represents as a broad autism phenotype in 55 non-autistic siblings (25 girls) of autistic children. Using 3D facial photogrammetry and age-matched control groups of children without a family history of ASD, we found that facial features of male siblings were more masculine than those of male controls (n = 69; p < 0.001, d = 0.81 [0.36, 1.26]). Facial features of female siblings were also more masculine than the features of female controls (n = 60; p = 0.005, d = 0.63 [0.16, 1.10]). Overall, we demonstrated for males and females that facial masculinity in non-autistic siblings is increased compared to same-sex comparison groups. These data provide the first evidence for a broad autism phenotype expressed in a physical characteristic, which has wider implications for our understanding of the interplay between physical and cognitive development in humans.

Article: A broad autism phenotype expressed in facial morphology.
Authors: Diana Weiting Tan, Murray T Maybery, Syed Zulqarnain Gilani, Gail A Alvares, Ajmal Mian, David Suter, and Andrew JO Whitehouse. School of Psychological Science, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia | Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia | School of Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.