A neurobehavioral examination of individuals with high-functioning autism and Asperger's disorder using a fronto-striatal model of dysfunction.

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The repetitive, stereotyped, and obsessive behaviors that characterize autism may in part be attributable to disruption of the region of the fronto-striatal system, which mediates executive abilities. Neuropsychological testing has shown that children with autism exhibit set-shifting deficiencies on tests such as the Wisconsin Card Sorting task but show normal inhibitory ability on variants of the Stroop color-word test. According to Minshew and Goldstein's multiple primary deficit theory, the complexity of the executive functioning task is important in determining the performance of individuals with autism. This study employed a visual-spatial task (with a Stroop-type component) to examine the integrity of executive functioning, in particular inhibition, in autism (n = 12) and Asperger's disorder (n = 12) under increasing levels of cognitive complexity. Whereas the Asperger's disorder group performed similarly to age- and IQ-matched control participants, even at the higher levels of cognitive complexity, the high-functioning autism group displayed inhibitory deficits specifically associated with increasing cognitive load.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-177
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002

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