Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 10, pp 2628–2645 | Cite as

Brief Report: Cognitive Flexibility in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Quantitative Review

Brief Report

Abstract

Impairments in cognitive flexibility have been used to characterize the neuropsychological presentation of persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Previous studies have yielded mixed results. Our objective was to systematically review the sensitivity of cognitive flexibility measures in ASD using quantitative methods employed by meta-analytic statistical techniques. Seventy-two studies met inclusion criteria for analysis and included a total of 2,137 individuals with ASD and 2,185 healthy controls. Our findings demonstrate that while the shift sub-scale of the self-report version of the Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) showed approximate absolute discriminability, of all the performance measures that were systematically reviewed and evaluated, none could reliably differentiate between individuals with ASD and controls; this is not surprising given that cognitive flexibility is not a core deficit of ASD. Our findings suggest that while the shift sub-scale of the self-report version of the BRIEF is a promising clinical marker, clinical performance measures of cognitive flexibility may lack ecological validity and lastly, reinforces that impairments in cognitive flexibility do not uniformly characterize all persons with ASD.

Keywords

Cognitive flexibility Autism spectrum disorders ASD Set-shifting Meta-analysis 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Rachel C. Leung was supported through a studentship, fully or in part, by the Matching Funds Program Hospital for Sick Children Foundation Student Scholarship Program.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Diagnostic ImagingHospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada

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