Recent research suggest that there may be a link between autism and testosterone levels in the womb as the foetus (US: fetus) develops.

According to researchers from Cambridge University, UK, babies who produce high levels of testosterone while they are still in the womb have a higher chance of showing traits of autism later on.

These findings could one day lead to screening tests. The findings also indicate that autism is, as many have suspected, a genetic condition.

Many believe that autism is an extreme form of male behaviour (US spelling: behavior). The findings of this research seem to lean towards this theory.

70 women underwent amniocentesis when they were pregnant. Testosterone levels were taken. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, team leader, was able to follow up on their babies when they were four years old. Professor Cohen studied 70 children.

When the infants became four-year-old toddlers their parents were asked to complete a checklist. This checklist was designed to record any signs of behavioural and social difficulties. Basically, the checklist was designed to pick up on signs associated with autism.

Professor Baron-Cohen said: \"Those who had a high level of testosterone also found it more difficult to fit into new social groups.\" Cohen was speaking at the British Psychological Society?s annual meeting. He also commented that the children whose mothers had high levels of testosterone in their wombs were less curious than the other kids (whose mothers did not).

He also added that these kids were not autistic. However, he noted a link between foetal testosterone levels and faint signs of autistic-like traits.

He said that the 12 month-old babies whose mothers had raised levels of testosterone in their wombs (during the pregnancy) were less willing to make eye contact.

Professor Baron-Cohen said: \"What I am doing is testing this idea that autism might be an extreme of the male brain. It\'s showing that the sexes are different. It\'s not about one being better than the other. You\'re going to find individuals who are not typical of either sex.\"

You will soon be able to read about this research in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.