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Memory in Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Boucher, J., Mayes, A. & Bigham, S. (2012). Memory in Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Psychological Bulletin, 138(3), pp. 458-496. doi: 10.1037/a0026869


Behavioral evidence concerning memory in high-functioning forms of autism (HFA) and in moderately low-functioning autism (M-LFA) is reviewed and compared. Findings on M-LFA are sparse. However, it is provisionally concluded that memory profiles in HFA and M-LFA (relative to ability-matched controls) are similar, but that declarative memory impairments are more extensive in M-LFA than in HFA. Specifically, both groups have diminished memory for emotion- or person-related stimuli. Regarding memory for non-social stimuli, both groups probably have mental-age appropriate nondeclarative memory; and within declarative memory, both groups have mental-age appropriate immediate free recall of within-span or supra-span lists of unrelated items, as well as cued recall and paired associate learning. By contrast, recognition is largely unimpaired in HFA but moderately impaired in M-LFA; and free recall of meaningful or structured stimuli is moderately impaired in HFA but more severely impaired in M-LFA. Theoretical explanations of data on declarative memory in HFA identify problems in the integrative processing, or the consolidation and storage, of complex stimuli; or a specific problem of recollection. Proposed neural substrates include the following: disconnectivity of primary sensory and association areas; dysfunctions of medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus or posterior parietal lobe; or combinations of these associated with neural disconnectivity. Hypothetically, perirhinal dysfunction might explain the more extensive declarative memory impairments in M-LFA. Foreseeable consequences of uneven memory abilities in HFA and M-LFA are outlined, including possible effects on language and learning in M-LFA. Finally, priorities for future research are identified, highlighting the urgent need for research on memory in lower-functioning individuals.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Publisher Keywords: Autistic spectrum disorder; memory; connectivity; hippocampus; prefrontal cortex; parietal lobe.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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