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Episodic but not semantic order memory difficulties in autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from the Historical Figures Task

Gaigg, S. B., Bowler, D. M. and Gardiner, J. M. (2013). Episodic but not semantic order memory difficulties in autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from the Historical Figures Task. Memory, doi: 10.1080/09658211.2013.811256

Abstract

Considerable evidence suggests that the episodic memory system operates abnormally in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) whereas the functions of the semantic memory system are relatively preserved. Here we show that the same dissociation also applies to the domain of order memory. We asked adult participants to order the names of famous historical figures either according to their chronological order in history (probing semantic memory) or according to a random sequence shown once on a screen (probing episodic memory). As predicted, adults with ASD performed less well than age- and IQ-matched comparison individuals only on the episodic task. This observation is of considerable importance in the context of developmental theory because semantic and episodic order memory abilities can be dissociated in typically developing infants before they reach the age at which the behavioural markers associated with ASD are first apparent. This raises the possibility that early emerging memory abnormalities play a role in shaping the developmental trajectory of the disorder. We discuss the broader implications of this possibility and highlight the urgent need for greater scrutiny of memory competences in ASD early in development.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/3422
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