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Scientists Demonstrate Working Memory Impairments in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Oct 26, 2017     Email"> PrintText Size

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by executive dysfunction, social impairments, repetitive and stereotyped behavior.

Working memory (WM) comprises a core component of executive function. Many studies have investigated WM impairments in individuals with ASD, however, a consistent conclusion has not been reached.  

Prof. Raymond Chan, Dr. WANG Ya and team members from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have conducted a meta-analsis study to examine severity of WM impairments in individuals with ASD and evaluated the potential moderating variables of this dysfunction.

Twenty-eight studies were included in this study, and the participants comprised 819 individuals with ASD and 875 healthy controls. A significant WM impairment with medium to large effect size (Cohen's d = −0.61) was identified in the individuals with ASD, however, this impairment was not associated with age.

Results of moderation analyses showed that (a) spatial WM was more severely impaired than verbal WM and (b) the component of cognitive processing (maintenance vs. maintenance plus manipulation) did not affect the severity of WM impairments.

These findings suggest that WM is impaired in individuals with ASD and may have implications for interventions related to WM impairments in these individuals. 

The results are published in Neuropsychology Review with the title of "A Meta-Analysis of Working Memory Impairments in Autism Spectrum Disorders".

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation of China, Youth Innovation Promotion Association Funding of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Beijing Training Project of the Leading Talents in S & T, and the CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Programme for Creative Research Teams.

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(Editor: ZHANG Nannan)

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