Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 11, pp 2809–2819 | Cite as

Efficacy of Cognitive Processes in Young People with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder Using a Novel Visual Information-Processing Task

  • Samantha J. Speirs
  • Nicole J. Rinehart
  • Stephen R. Robinson
  • Bruce J. Tonge
  • Gregory W. Yelland
Original Paper

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterised by a unique pattern of preserved abilities and deficits within and across cognitive domains. The Complex Information Processing Theory proposes this pattern reflects an altered capacity to respond to cognitive demands. This study compared how complexity induced by time constraints on processing affect cognitive function in individuals with ASD and typically-developing individuals. On a visual information-processing task, the Subtle Cognitive Impairment Test, both groups exhibited sensitivity to time-constraints. Further, 65 % of individuals with ASD demonstrated deficits in processing efficiency, possibly attributable to the effects of age and clinical comorbidities, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These findings suggest that for some ASD individuals there are significant impairments in processing efficiency, which may have implications for education and interventions.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disorder Cognitive processing Processing efficacy Subtle Cognitive Impairment Test Speed of processing 

Notes

Conflict of interest

None.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR (4th revised ed.). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.Google Scholar
  3. Ames, C., & White, S. (2011). Brief report: Are ADHD traits dissociable from the autistic profile? Links between cognition and behaviour. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(3), 357–363. doi: 10.1007/s10803-010-1049-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, M. (2001). Annotation: Conceptions of intelligence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 42, 287–298. doi: 10.1017/S0021963001007016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ashwin, E., Ashwin, C., Rhydderch, D., Howells, J., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2009). Eagle-eyed visual acuity: An experimental investigation of enhanced perception in autism. Biological Psychiatry, 65(1), 17–21. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.06.012.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baddeley, A. (2012). Working memory: Theories, models, and controversies. Annual Review of Psychology, 63(1), 1–29. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100422.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertone, A., Mottron, L., Jelenic, P., & Faubert, J. (2005). Enhanced and diminished visuo-spatial information processing in autism depends on stimulus complexity. Brain, 128(10), 2430–2441. doi: 10.1093/brain/awh561.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruce, K., Yelland, G., Almeida, A., Smith, J., & Robinson, S. (2014). Effects on cognition of conventional and robotically-assisted cardiac valve surgery. Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 97(1), 48–55. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2013.07.018.
  9. Bruce, K., Yelland, G., Smith, J., & Robinson, S. (2013). Recovery of cognitive function after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 95(4), 1306–1313. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.11.021.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Caron, M.-J., Mottron, L., Berthiaume, C., & Dawson, M. (2006). Cognitive mechanisms, specificity and neural underpinnings of visuospatial peaks in autism. Brain, 129(7), 1789–1802. doi: 10.1093/brain/awl072.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Charman, T., Jones, C., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Baird, G., & Happé, F. (2011). Defining the cognitive phenotype of autism. Brain Research, 1380, 10–21. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.10.075.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Connors, C. (1997). Conners rating scales (Revised). North Tona-wanda, NY: Multi-Health Systems.Google Scholar
  13. Corbett, B., Constantine, L., Hendren, R., Rocke, D., & Ozonoff, S. (2009). Examining executive functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and typical development. Psychiatry Research, 166(2–3), 210–222. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2008.02.005.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Derakshan, N., & Eysenck, M. (2009). Anxiety, processing efficiency, and cognitive performance. New developments from attentional control theory. European Psychologist, 14(2), 168–176. doi: 10.1027/1016-9040.14.2.168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dickerson Mayes, S., & Calhoun, S. (2007). Learning, attention, writing, and processing speed in typical children and children with ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, and oppositional-defiant disorder. Child Neuropsychology: A Journal on Normal and Abnormal Development in Childhood and Adolescence, 13(6), 469–493. doi: 10.1080/09297040601112773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dickerson Mayes, S., Calhoun, S., Mayes, R., & Molitoris, S. (2012). Autism and ADHD: Overlapping and discriminating symptoms. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 277–285. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.05.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eagle, R., Romanczyk, R., & Lenzenweger, M. (2010). Classification of children with autism spectrum disorders: A finite mixture modeling approach to heterogeneity. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(4), 772–781. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2010.02.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Einfeld, S., & Tonge, B. (1992). Manual for the Developmental Behaviour Checklist. Clayton, Melbourne and Sydney: Monash University for Developmental Psychiatry and School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  19. Einfeld, S., & Tonge, B. (1995). The developmental behavior checklist: The development and validation of an instrument to assess behavioral and emotional disturbance in children and adolescents with mental retardation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25(2), 81–104. doi: 10.1007/BF02178498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Einfeld, S., & Tonge, B. (2002). Manual for the developmental behaviour checklist: primary carer version (DBC-P) and teacher version (DBC-T) (2nd ed.). Clayton, Melbourne: Monash University Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology.Google Scholar
  21. Eysenck, M., & Calvo, M. (1992). Anxiety and performance: The processing efficiency theory. Cognition and Emotion, 6(6), 409–434. doi: 10.1080/02699939208409696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eysenck, M., Derakshan, N., Santos, R., & Calvo, M. (2007). Anxiety and cognitive performance: Attentional control theory. Emotion, 7(2), 336–353. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.7.2.336.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Forster, K. (1999). The microgenesis of priming effects in lexical access. Brain and Language, 68(1–2), 5–15. doi: 10.1006/brln.1999.2078.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Forster, K., & Davis, C. (1984). Masked priming and frequency attenuation in lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 10(4), 680–698. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.10.4.680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Forster, K., & Forster, J. (2003). DMDX: A windows display program with millisecond accuracy. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments & Computers, 35(1), 116–124. doi: 10.3758/BF03195503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Friedman, T., Robinson, S., & Yelland, G. (2011). Impaired perceptual judgment at low blood alcohol concentrations. Alcohol, 45(7), 711–718. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2010.10.007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Friedman, T., Yelland, G., & Robinson, S. (2012). Subtle cognitive impairment in elders with Mini-Mental State Examination scores within the ‘normal’ range. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27(5), 463–471. doi: 10.1002/gps.2736.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hill, E., & Bird, C. (2006). Executive processes in Asperger syndrome: Patterns of performance in a multiple case series. Neuropsychologia, 44, 2822–2835. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.06.007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holdnack, J., Goldstein, G., & Drozdick, L. (2011). Social perception and WAIS-IV performance in adolescents and adults diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Assessment, 18(2), 192–200. doi: 10.1177/1073191110394771.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huemer, S., & Mann, V. (2010). A comprehensive profile of decoding and comprehension in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(4), 485–493. doi: 10.1007/s10803-009-0892-3.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Kalff, A., De Sonneville, L., Kalff, A., Hurks, P., Hendriksen, J., Kroes, M., et al. (2005). Speed, speed variability, and accuracy of information processing in 5 to 6-year-old children at risk of ADHD. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 11(2), 173–183. doi: 10.1017/S1355617705050216.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kjelgaard, M., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2001). An investigation of language impairment in autism: Implications for genetic subgroups. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16(2/3), 287–308. doi: 10.1080/01690960042000058.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. Kuschner, E., Bennetto, L., & Yost, K. (2007). Patterns of nonverbal cognitive functioning in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(5), 795–807. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0209-8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lewis, F., Murdoch, B., & Woodyatt, G. (2007). Linguistic abilities in children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 1(1), 85–100. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2006.08.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lord, C., Rutter, M., & Le Couteur, A. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview-revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24(5), 659–685. doi: 10.1007/BF02172145.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mattingly, J., Rich, A., Yelland, G., & Bradshaw, J. (2001). Unconsciuos priming eliminates automatic binding of colour and alphanumeric form in synaesthesia. Nature, 410(6828), 580–582. doi: 10.1038/35069062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mayes, S., & Calhoun, S. (2008). WISC-IV and WIAT-II profiles in children with high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(3), 428–439. doi: 10.1007/s10803-007-0410-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Minshew, N., & Goldstein, G. (1998). Autism as a disorder of complex information processing. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 4(2), 129–136. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2779(1998)<129:AID-MRDD10>3.0.CO;2-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Minshew, N., & Goldstein, G. (2001). The pattern of intact and impaired memory functions in autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42(8), 1095–1101. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00808.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Minshew, N., Goldstein, G., & Siegal, D. (1995). Speech and language in high functioning autistic individuals. Neuropsychology, 9(2), 225–261. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.9.2.255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Minshew, N., Goldstein, G., & Siegal, D. (1997). Neuropsychologic functioning in autism: Profile of a complex information processing disorder. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 3(4), 303–316.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Minshew, N., Meyer, J., & Goldstein, G. (2002). Abstract reasoning in autism: A dissociation between concept formation and concept identification. Neuropsychology, 16(3), 327–334. doi: 10.1037//0894-4105.16.3.327.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Minshew, N., & Wlliams, D. (2008). Brain-behavior connections on autism. In K. Buron & P. Wolfberg (Eds.), Learners on the autism spectrum: Preparing highly qualified educators (pp. 44–65). Lenexa, Kansas: AAPC Publishing.Google Scholar
  44. Mohr, C., Tonge, B., & Einfeld, S. (2004). The developmental behaviour checklist for adults (DBC-A): Supplement to the manual for the developmental checklist—DBC-P and BBC-T. Clayton, Melbourne and Sydney: Univeristy of New South Wales and Monash University, Australia.Google Scholar
  45. Mohr, C., Tonge, B., & Einfeld, S. (2005). The development of a new measure for the assessment of psychopathology in adults with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 49(7), 469–480. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2005.00701.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mulder, M., Bos, D., Weusten, J., van Belle, J., van Dijk, S., Simen, P., et al. (2010). Basic impairments in regulating the speed-accuracy tradeoff predict symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 68(12), 1114–1119. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.07.031.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oliveras-Rentas, R., Kenworthy, L., Roberson, R., Martin, A., & Wallace, G. (2012). WISC-IV profile in high-functioning autism spectrum disorders: impaired processing speed is associated with increased autism communication symptoms and decreased adaptive communication abilities. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(5), 655–664. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1289-7.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Plaisted, K., O’Riordan, M., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1998). Enhanced visual search for a conjunctive target in autism: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39(5), 777–783. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rapin, I., Dunn, M., Allen, D., Stevens, M., & Fein, D. (2009). Subtypes of language disorders in school-age children with autism. Developmental Neuropsychology, 34(1), 66–84. doi: 10.1080/87565640802564648.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rinehart, N., Bradshaw, J., Tonge, B., Brereton, A., & Bellgrove, M. (2002). A neurobehavioural examination of individuals with high functioning autism and Asperger’s disorder using a fronto-striatal model of dysfunction. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 1(2), 164–177. doi: 10.1177/15382302001002004.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Ring, H., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Williams, S., Brammer, M., Andrew, C., et al. (1999). Cerebral correlates of preserved cognitive skills in autism: a functional MRI study of embedded figures task performance. Brain, 122(7), 1305–1315. doi: 10.1093/brain/122.7.1305.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Roberts, W., Milich, R., & Fillmore, M. (2012). Constraints on information processing capacity in adults with ADHD. Neuropsychology, 26(6), 695–703. doi: 10.1037/a0030296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Samson, F., Mottron, L., Soulie`res., I., & Zeffiro, T. (2012). Enhanced visual functioning in autism: An ALE meta-analysis. Human Brain Mapping, 33(7), 1553–1581. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21307.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Scheuffgen, K., Happe, F., Anderson, M., & Frith, U. (2000). High “intelligence”, low “IQ”? Speed of processing and measured IQ in children with autism. Development and Psychopathology, 12(1), 83–90. doi: 10.1017/S095457940000105X.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Silk, T., Vance, A., Rinehart, N., Bradshaw, J., & Cunnington, R. (2008). Dysfunction in the fronto-parietal network in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): An fMRI study. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 2(2), 123–131. doi: 10.1007/s11682-008-9021-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Charman, T., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., & Baird, G. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921–929. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e318179964f.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Skokauskas, N., & Gallagher, L. (2012). Mental health aspects of autistic spectrum disorders in children. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56(3), 248–257. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2011.01423.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sohn, H., Kim, I., Lee, W., Peterson, B., Chae, J.-H., Hong, S., et al. (2010). Linear and non-linear EEG analysis of adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder during a cognitive task. Clinical Neurophysiology, 121(11), 1863–1870. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2010.04.007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stevens, M., Fein, D., Dunn, M., Allen, D., Waterhouse, L., Feinstein, C., et al. (2000). Subgroups of children with autism by cluster analysis: A longitudinal examination. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39(3), 346–352. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200003000-00017.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wallace, G., Anderson, M., & Happé, F. (2009). Brief report: Information processing speed is intact in autism but not correlated with measured intelligence. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(5), 809–814. doi: 10.1007/s10803-008-0684-1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Williams, D., Goldstein, G., & Minshew, N. (2006). Neuropsychologic functioning in children with autism: Further evidence for disordered complex information- processing. Child Neuropsychology, 12(4–5), 279–298. doi: 10.1080/09297040600681190.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  62. Winer, B. J. (1962). Statistical principles in experimental design. New York: McGraw-Hill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Yelland, G. W. (1994). The processes of lexical access. In R. Asher & J. Simpson (Eds.), The encyclopedia of language and linguistics (1st ed., pp. 31–36). London: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  64. Yerys, B., Wallace, G., Sokoloff, J., Shook, D., James, J., & Kenworthy, L. (2009). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms moderate cognition and behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research, 2(6), 322–333. doi: 10.1002/aur.103.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha J. Speirs
    • 1
  • Nicole J. Rinehart
    • 2
  • Stephen R. Robinson
    • 3
  • Bruce J. Tonge
    • 1
  • Gregory W. Yelland
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Psychology and PsychiatryMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Deakin Child Study Centre, School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Health SciencesRMIT UniversityBundooraAustralia
  4. 4.Central Clinical SchoolMonash University, The Alfred CentreMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations