Verbal and Spatial Working Memory in Autism

  • Diane L. Williams
  • Gerald Goldstein
  • Patricia A. Carpenter
  • Nancy J. MinshewEmail author


Verbal and spatial working memory were examined in high-functioning children, adolescents, and adults with autism compared to age and cognitive-matched controls. No deficit was found in verbal working memory in the individuals with autism using an N-back letter task and standardized measures. The distinction between the N-back task and others used previously to infer a working memory deficit in autism is that this task does not involve a complex cognitive demand. Deficits were found in spatial working memory. Understanding the basis for the dissociation between intact verbal working memory and impaired spatial working memory and the breakdown that occurs in verbal working memory as information processing demands are increased will likely provide valuable insights into the neural basis of autism.

Autism working memory information processing 



The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant HD35469 to Nancy J. Minshew supported this research. This study was supported by an NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (CPEA). The Medical Research Service, Department of Veterans Affairs is also acknowledged for support of this research. Diane L. Williams was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant T32-MH18951.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane L. Williams
    • 1
  • Gerald Goldstein
    • 2
  • Patricia A. Carpenter
    • 3
  • Nancy J. Minshew
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.School of MedicineUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, School of MedicineUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.School of MedicineUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  5. 5.School of MedicineUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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