Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 605–612 | Cite as

Spatial Working Memory Deficits in Autism

  • Shelly D. Steele
  • Nancy J. Minshew
  • Beatriz Luna
  • John A. SweeneyEmail author
Original Paper


Previous studies have reported working memory deficits in autism, but this finding has been inconsistent. One possibility is that deficits in this domain may be present only when working memory load exceeds some limited capacity. High-functioning individuals with autism performed the CANTAB computerized test of spatial working memory. Individuals with autism made more errors than a matched group of typically developing controls on this task, and were less likely to consistently use a specific organized search strategy to complete the task. Overall, these results demonstrate reduced spatial working memory abilities in autism, and extend previous findings by demonstrating that these deficits are significant when tasks impose heavier demands on working memory.


High functioning autism CANTAB Executive function Frontal lobes Cognition Neuropsychology 



Support for the preparation of this manuscript was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (HD35469) and NS33355 & MH01433, and the National Alliance for Autism Research. We are grateful to the families who participated in this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelly D. Steele
    • 1
  • Nancy J. Minshew
    • 2
  • Beatriz Luna
    • 3
  • John A. Sweeney
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry and NeurologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Psychiatry and PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, and PsychologyCenter for Cognitive Medicine (MC 913), University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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