European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 197–205 | Cite as

Block design reconstruction skills: not a good candidate for an endophenotypic marker in autism research

  • Maretha de JongeEmail author
  • Chantal Kemner
  • Fabienne Naber
  • Herman van Engeland


Superior performance on block design tasks is reported in autistic individuals, although it is not consistently found in high-functioning individuals or individuals with Asperger Syndrome. It is assumed to reflect weak central coherence: an underlying cognitive deficit, which might also be part of the genetic makeup of the disorder. We assessed block design reconstruction skills in high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) from multi-incidence families and in their parents. Performance was compared to relevant matched control groups. We used a task that was assumed to be highly sensitive to subtle performance differences. We did not find individuals with ASD to be significantly faster on this task than the matched control group, not even when the difference between reconstruction time of segmented and pre-segmented designs was compared. However, we found individuals with ASD to make fewer errors during the process of reconstruction which might indicate some dexterity in mental segmentation. However, parents of individuals with ASD did not perform better on the task than control parents. Therefore, based on our data, we conclude that mental segmentation ability as measured with a block design reconstruction task is not a neurocognitive marker or endophenotype useful in genetic studies.


high-functioning autism autism neuropsychology psychology cognitive style parents 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maretha de Jonge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chantal Kemner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fabienne Naber
    • 3
  • Herman van Engeland
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUMC UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Dept. of Neurocognition, Faculty of PsychologyMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Center for Child and Family StudiesLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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