This is an interesting article as it idenitfies some concrete memory issues in an autistic sample. Here are some summary points:
- The sample included 76 children from ages 8 to 16. Half were verbal children with autism, half were normal controls matched for age, IQ and gender. All children with a diagnosis of autism had WISC-III Full Scale IQ's above 80. Students ranged between 10 and 13 years of age.
- All children were administered the WRAML and the WISC-III.
- The children with autism, compared to the matched controls, had poorer memory for complex information (many individual elements or one complicated element) in both word and picture form. In essence, the children with autism found it hard to remember information if they needed a cognitive organizing strategy to aid recall or if they had to detect such an organizing element in the information itself.
- Children with autism also had poor working memory for spatial information (Gsm-WM & Gv-MV), or remembering over time where something was located once it was out of sight (Gv-PI & Gv-MV). Although working memory for verbal information was fine, a "Finger Windows" subtest of recall of a spatial sequence easily distinguished between children with and without autism. Spatial working memory depends on a specific region of the frontal cortex that is known to be dysfunctional in autism.
- Despite these two impairments, the children with autism did not have global memory problems. They showed good associative learning ability (Glr-MA) , verbal working(Glr-MM & Gsm-WM) memory and recognition memory (Glr-MA).
- Because their memories differed in only two specific ways, the authors hypothesize that memory in autism appears to be organized differently than in normal individuals -- reflecting differences in the development of brain connections with the frontal cortex.
- The authors further explain how these memory problems can affect behavior. "Typical people automatically notice and focus on what's important or relevant," she says. "But because people with autism focus on details instead, they can't recall or respond to what most people think is important."
(Notations for Broad and Narrow abilities were put in by yours truly. Please feel free to post your comments on whether you feel these adequately represent the actual tasks described.)