Spatial working memory in children with high-functioning autism: Intact configural processing but impaired capacity

Yuhong V. Jiang, Christian G. Capistrano, Bryce E. Palm

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Visual attention and visual working memory exert severe capacity limitations on cognitive processing. Impairments in both functions may exacerbate the social and communication deficits seen in children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study characterizes spatial working memory and visual attention in school-age children with high-functioning autism. Children with ASD, and age, gender, and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) children performed 2 tasks: a spatial working memory task and an attentive tracking task. Compared with TD children, children with ASD showed a more pronounced deficit in the spatial working memory task than the attentive tracking task, even though the latter placed significant demands on sustained attention, location updating, and distractor inhibition. Because both groups of children were sensitive to configuration mismatches between the sample and test arrays, the spatial working memory deficit was not because of atypical organization of spatial working memory. These findings show that attention and working memory are dissociable, and that children with ASD show a specific deficit in buffering visual information across temporal discontinuity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)248-257
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
    Volume123
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Feb 2014

    Keywords

    • Attention
    • Autism spectrum disorder
    • Configural processing
    • Spatial working memory

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