Episodic memory and Episodic Future Thinking Impairments in High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Underlying Difficulty With Scene Construction or Self-Projection?

Lind, S. E., Williams, D. M., Bowler, D. M. & Peel, A. (2014). Episodic memory and Episodic Future Thinking Impairments in High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Underlying Difficulty With Scene Construction or Self-Projection?. Neuropsychology, 28(1), pp. 55-65. doi: 10.1037/neu0000005

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Abstract

There appears to be a common network of brain regions that underlie the ability to recall past personal experiences (episodic memory) and the ability to imagine possible future personal experiences (episodic future thinking). At the cognitive level, these abilities are thought to rely on “scene construction” (the ability to bind together multimodal elements of a scene in mind—dependent on hippocampal functioning) and temporal “self-projection” (the ability to mentally project oneself through time—dependent on prefrontal cortex functioning). Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by diminished episodic memory, it is unclear whether episodic future thinking is correspondingly impaired. Moreover, the underlying basis of such impairments (difficulties with scene construction, self-projection, or both) is yet to be established. The current study therefore aimed to elucidate these issues. Method: Twenty-seven intellectually highfunctioning adults with ASD and 29 age- and IQ-matched neurotypical comparison adults were asked to describe (a) imagined atemporal, non-self-relevant fictitious scenes (assessing scene construction), (b) imagined plausible self-relevant future episodes (assessing episodic future thinking), and (c) recalled personally experienced past episodes (assessing episodic memory). Tests of narrative ability and theory of mind were also completed. Results: Performances of participants with ASD were significantly and equally diminished in each condition and, crucially, this diminution was independent of general narrative ability. Conclusions: Given that participants with ASD were impaired in the fictitious scene condition, which does not involve self-projection, we suggest the underlying difficulty with episodic memory/future thinking is one of scene construction.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/3029

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