A deficit in shifting attention present in high-functioning autism but not Asperger's disorder

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The aim of this study was to examine executive functioning, in particular, attentional set-shifting deficits in high-functioning autism (n = 12) and Asperger's disorder (n = 12). A large or global digit composed of smaller or local digits was presented during each trial. The participants indicated the presence of 1s or 2s by pressing the appropriate button. These targets could appear globally or locally. Relative to IQ, sex and age matched controls, reaction time to global targets in individuals with autism was retarded when the previous target appeared locally. This deficiency in shifting from local to global processing, however, was not observed in individuals with Asperger's disorder. The theoretical and neurobiological significance of this dissociation in executive functioning in these clinically related disorders was explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-80
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Asperger's disorder
  • Attention
  • Executive dysfunction
  • High-functioning autism
  • Visual-perceptual processing

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