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Intact memory storage but impaired retrieval in visual memory in autism: New insights from an electrophysiological study

Desaunay, P., Clochon, P., Doidy, F. , Hinault, T., Lambrechts, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0497-1475, Wantzen, P., Wallois, F., Mahmoudazeh, M., Guile, M., Guénolé, F., Baleyte, J-M., Eustache, F., Bowler, D. M. ORCID: 0000-0002-9884-0627 & Guillery-Girard, B. (2022). Intact memory storage but impaired retrieval in visual memory in autism: New insights from an electrophysiological study. Autism Research: official journal of the International Society for Autism Research, doi: 10.1002/aur.2838


In a recent study on visual episodic memory (Desaunay, Clochon, et al., 2020), we have shown event-related potentials (ERPs) differences associated with priming (150–300 msec), familiarity (350–470 msec), and recollection (600–700 msec), in young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared with typical development (TD). To go further into the study of the processes of storage and retrieval of the memory trace, we re-analyzed Desaunay, Clochon, et al's data using time-frequency analysis, that is, event-related synchronization and desynchronization (ERS/ERD). This allows a decomposition of the spectral power within frequency bands associated with these ERPs. We focused both on the same time windows and the same regions of interest as previously published. We mainly identified, in ASD compared with TD, reduced ERS in low-frequencies (delta, theta) in early time-windows, and non-significant differences in ERD in higher frequencies (alpha, beta1) in all time-windows. Reduced ERS during recognition confirmed previously reported diminution of priming effects and difficulties in manipulation and retrieval of both semantic and episodic information. Conversely, preserved ERD corroborates a preservation of memory storage processes. These observations are consistent with a cognitive model of memory in ASD, that suggests difficulties in cognitive operations or executive demand at retrieval, subsequent to successful long-term storage of information.

Lay Summary

We assessed the EEG synchronization and desynchronization, during visual episodic recognition. We observed, in youth with Autism, reduced synchronization in low-frequencies (delta, theta), suggesting reduced access to and manipulation of long-term stored information. By contrast, non-significant differences in desynchronization at higher frequencies (alpha, beta frequency bands), that support long-term stored semantic and episodic information, suggested preserved memory traces.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
[img] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible due to copyright restrictions.



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