Date of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Neuroscience (Cellular/Molecular)

First Advisor

Molly Helt, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sarah Raskin, Ph.D.


A number of isolated studies have unearthed potential risk factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), such as maternal obesity, close birth spacing and conception while taking birth control. These findings are consistent with the idea of a link between maternal endogenous estrogen exposure and ASD risk. The current research seeks to explore whether these risk factors can be best conceptualized in terms of the hormonal milieu that the maternal environment provides, by investigating the above mentioned factors in the same cohort, along with a number of other indicators of maternal hormone profile. The biological mothers of children with ASD (n=253) and the biological mothers of typically developing children (n=221) were asked to complete an online survey designed to delineate maternal hormone profiles both before and during each pregnancy. The survey asked about previously established risk factors for ASD, as well as those yet to be explored in mothers of children with ASD that are expected to be influential, if differences in estrogen profiles is a general risk factor (e.g. breast cancer, hypothyroidism, early age at menarche, etc.) The two groups showed significant statistical differences in their rate of estrogen influenced health indices (breast cancer, rate of hyperthyroidism, Body Mass Index (BMI) and age at menarche), but not other health indices (other types of cancer) suggesting a possible connection between maternal estrogen levels and the pathogenesis of ASD. This is the first study of its kind to hypothesize and explore such a link. The results from this study implicate maternal hormonal profiles as worthy of future study in relation to the etiology of ASD.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College Hartford, Connecticut for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience.