Memory functioning in children and adolescents with autism

Author: Southwick, J.S.; Bigler, E.D.; Froehlich, A.; Dubray, M.B.; Alexander, A.L.; Lange, N.; Lainhart, J.E.

Description: OBJECTIVE: Memory functioning in children and adolescents ages 5-19 with autism (n = 50) and typically developing controls (n = 36) was assessed using a clinical assessment battery, the Test of Memory and Learning (TOMAL).

METHOD: Participant groups were statistically comparable in age, nonverbal IQ, handedness, and head circumference, and were administered the TOMAL.

RESULTS: Test performance on the TOMAL demonstrated broad differences in memory functioning in the autism group, across multiple task formats, including verbal and nonverbal, immediate and delayed, attention and concentration, sequential recall, free recall, associative recall, and multiple-trial learning memory. All index and nearly all subtest differences remained significant even after comparing a subset of the autism group (n = 36) and controls that were matched for verbal IQ (p > .05). However, retention of previously remembered information after a delay was similar in autism and controls.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that performance on measures of episodic memory is broadly reduced in autism, and support the conclusion that information encoding and organization, possibly due to inefficient cognitive processing strategies, rather than storage and retrieval, are the primary factors that limit memory performance in autism.

Subject headings: Adolescent; Autistic Disorder–complications; Child; Child, Preschool; Developmental Disabilities–etiology; Female; Humans; Intelligence; Male; Memory Disorders–etiology; Mental Recall–physiology; Neuropsychological Tests; Verbal Learning–physiology; Young Adult

Publication year: 2011

Journal or book title: Neuropsychology

Volume: 25

Issue: 6

Pages: 702-710

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 61