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Relational memory processes in adults with autism spectrum disorder

Ring, Melanie (2017). Relational memory processes in adults with autism spectrum disorder. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Research on memory in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) points to difficulties in memory for personal experiences (episodic memory - EM). In particular, difficulties were found for the processing of relations between units of material leaving memory for single items mostly intact. The aim of this thesis was to examine EM in ASD further by investigating the influence of meaning, type of material, and relations, and by assessing the influence of complexity, executive functions, and attention on memory, learning, and spatial navigation in ASD. In addition to memory behaviour, eye movements were measured. It was found that the EM impairment in ASD adults with average intellectual abilities persisted across a range of materials and types of relations, and that item memory was also affected when using tests of similar complexity to relational memory tests. Eye movements indicated attentional differences in ASD that may have had an impact on the observed difficulties, and they indicated that memory difficulties went beyond explicit deliberate retrieval of information also affecting implicit memory and, therefore, suggesting that also encoding and postencoding processes may work differently in ASD. Spatial navigation was particularly affected by executive function and item memory difficulties in ASD, and structural learning may be the fundamental mechanism that underlies the cognitive difficulties observed in ASD. Future research should concern the development and application of measures for less verbal and/or intellectually able ASD individuals and the investigation of how the studied processes are affected by ageing in the ASD population. In addition, training and support strategies should be developed to investigate whether memory difficulties in ASD are caused by a processing bias or a deficit and to attempt to alleviate them. Finally, the investigation of memory encoding and consolidation is needed to test whether these processes operate differently in ASD and, if so, how they could be improved.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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