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Sex differences in mental rotation and how they add to the understanding of autism.

Zapf AC, Glindemann LA, Vogeley K, Falter CM - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: The most consistent cognitive sex differences have been found in the visuo-spatial domain, using Mental Rotation (MR) tasks.Results showed a male advantage in rotational aspects of the MR task, which correlated with IPT results.These results suggest that the differences in MR performance due to ASD are different from sex-related differences in TD persons, in other words, ASD is not a simple and continuous extension of the male cognitive profile into the psychopathological range as the extreme male brain hypothesis (EMB) of ASD would suggest.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS, Groningen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
The most consistent cognitive sex differences have been found in the visuo-spatial domain, using Mental Rotation (MR) tasks. Such sex differences have been suggested to bear implications on our understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, it is still debated how the sex difference in MR performance relates to differences between individuals with ASD compared to typically developed control persons (TD). To provide a detailed exploration of sex differences in MR performance, we studied rotational (indicated by slopes) and non-rotational aspects (indicated by intercepts) of the MR task in TD individuals (total N = 50). Second-to-fourth digit length ratios (2D:4D) were measured to investigate the associations between prenatal testosterone and performance on MR tasks. Handedness was assessed by the use of the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory in order to examine the relation between handedness and MR performance. In addition, we investigated the relation of spatial to systemising abilities, both of which have been associated with sex differences and with ASD, employing the Intuitive Physics Test (IPT). Results showed a male advantage in rotational aspects of the MR task, which correlated with IPT results. These findings are in contrast to the MR performance of individuals with ASD who have been shown to outperform TD persons in the non-rotational aspects of the MR task. These results suggest that the differences in MR performance due to ASD are different from sex-related differences in TD persons, in other words, ASD is not a simple and continuous extension of the male cognitive profile into the psychopathological range as the extreme male brain hypothesis (EMB) of ASD would suggest.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Typical examples of 3D figures used in the current Mental Rotation task.Cognitive processes related to task performance can be divided into independent rotational and non-rotational components. Typical sex differences were observed within the rotational dimension, whereas variation related to diagnosis was observed within the non-rotational dimension.
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pone.0124628.g002: Typical examples of 3D figures used in the current Mental Rotation task.Cognitive processes related to task performance can be divided into independent rotational and non-rotational components. Typical sex differences were observed within the rotational dimension, whereas variation related to diagnosis was observed within the non-rotational dimension.

Mentions: Third, in contrast to Brosnan, Daggar, et al. [2], but in line with Falter et al. [3] and Brosnan, Walker, et al. [14], who did not find an overall sex difference for error rate intercepts, there was no sex difference found for intercepts in the current study (neither ACC nor RT). Prior research has shown that individuals with ASD outperformed TD individuals only on RT intercepts [11]. However, a recent study revealed that ASD participants had slower processing (i.e. higher intercepts) compared to typically developing controls [20]. While we interpreted our previous results in the light of a local feature-based strategy [11], the results by Pearson et al. [20] were interpreted in the context of a configural strategy. In addition, Pearson et al. [20] used pictures of bodies or cars as stimuli, while we used geometric figures. These findings corroborate the idea of a different cognitive profile for MR in ASD that contrasts the different cognitive TD sex-related profiles, which contradict the EMB theory (see Fig 2).


Sex differences in mental rotation and how they add to the understanding of autism.

Zapf AC, Glindemann LA, Vogeley K, Falter CM - PLoS ONE (2015)

Typical examples of 3D figures used in the current Mental Rotation task.Cognitive processes related to task performance can be divided into independent rotational and non-rotational components. Typical sex differences were observed within the rotational dimension, whereas variation related to diagnosis was observed within the non-rotational dimension.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4401579&req=5

pone.0124628.g002: Typical examples of 3D figures used in the current Mental Rotation task.Cognitive processes related to task performance can be divided into independent rotational and non-rotational components. Typical sex differences were observed within the rotational dimension, whereas variation related to diagnosis was observed within the non-rotational dimension.
Mentions: Third, in contrast to Brosnan, Daggar, et al. [2], but in line with Falter et al. [3] and Brosnan, Walker, et al. [14], who did not find an overall sex difference for error rate intercepts, there was no sex difference found for intercepts in the current study (neither ACC nor RT). Prior research has shown that individuals with ASD outperformed TD individuals only on RT intercepts [11]. However, a recent study revealed that ASD participants had slower processing (i.e. higher intercepts) compared to typically developing controls [20]. While we interpreted our previous results in the light of a local feature-based strategy [11], the results by Pearson et al. [20] were interpreted in the context of a configural strategy. In addition, Pearson et al. [20] used pictures of bodies or cars as stimuli, while we used geometric figures. These findings corroborate the idea of a different cognitive profile for MR in ASD that contrasts the different cognitive TD sex-related profiles, which contradict the EMB theory (see Fig 2).

Bottom Line: The most consistent cognitive sex differences have been found in the visuo-spatial domain, using Mental Rotation (MR) tasks.Results showed a male advantage in rotational aspects of the MR task, which correlated with IPT results.These results suggest that the differences in MR performance due to ASD are different from sex-related differences in TD persons, in other words, ASD is not a simple and continuous extension of the male cognitive profile into the psychopathological range as the extreme male brain hypothesis (EMB) of ASD would suggest.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS, Groningen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
The most consistent cognitive sex differences have been found in the visuo-spatial domain, using Mental Rotation (MR) tasks. Such sex differences have been suggested to bear implications on our understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, it is still debated how the sex difference in MR performance relates to differences between individuals with ASD compared to typically developed control persons (TD). To provide a detailed exploration of sex differences in MR performance, we studied rotational (indicated by slopes) and non-rotational aspects (indicated by intercepts) of the MR task in TD individuals (total N = 50). Second-to-fourth digit length ratios (2D:4D) were measured to investigate the associations between prenatal testosterone and performance on MR tasks. Handedness was assessed by the use of the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory in order to examine the relation between handedness and MR performance. In addition, we investigated the relation of spatial to systemising abilities, both of which have been associated with sex differences and with ASD, employing the Intuitive Physics Test (IPT). Results showed a male advantage in rotational aspects of the MR task, which correlated with IPT results. These findings are in contrast to the MR performance of individuals with ASD who have been shown to outperform TD persons in the non-rotational aspects of the MR task. These results suggest that the differences in MR performance due to ASD are different from sex-related differences in TD persons, in other words, ASD is not a simple and continuous extension of the male cognitive profile into the psychopathological range as the extreme male brain hypothesis (EMB) of ASD would suggest.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus