Weakness of visual working memory in autism

Yasuko Funabiki, Taiko Shiwa
Autism Research: Official Journal of the International Society for Autism Research 2018, 11 (9): 1245-1252
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are often supported in daily life by visual presentations such as picture cards or illustrations. Therefore, they are considered to have visual strength. However, whether people with ASD are cognitively superior in visual processing and what causes the difference between visual and other sensory processing remain unknown. Thus, we compared visual and auditory processing from an aspect of memory in people with ASD and controls. We conducted the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R) with 64 adults with ASD and 30 controls matched for gender, age, and Full Scale Intelligence Quotient (FIQ). Our results showed that participants with ASD were inferior in visual working memory (P < .01), on a task in which a visual target was pointed every second. Another visual memory, namely, Visual Reproduction in which four geometric figures were presented each by 10 sec, and auditory memory, including working memory, revealed no significant differences between groups. Other visual memory, namely, Visual Paired Associates in which paired presentations were shown every 3 sec, had weak differences (P = .019). Thus, people with ASD might have difficulties processing rapid visual information. Autism Res 2018, 11: 1245-1252. © 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: Autistic people are often supported by visual presentations. In this study, we inspected whether they have visual superiority. We showed that they were not visually superior in cognitive aspects, and were poor not at auditory but at visual working memory. Static visual memory in which memorization time is longer than that in working memory was intact in autism. Unusual rapid visual presentation may bother people with autism.


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