Cognitive Set Shifting Deficits and Their Relationship to Repetitive Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder
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The neurocognitive impairments associated with restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs) in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not yet clear. Prior studies indicate that individuals with ASD show reduced cognitive flexibility, which could reflect difficulty shifting from a previously learned response pattern or a failure to maintain a new response set. We examined different error types on a test of set-shifting completed by 60 individuals with ASD and 55 age- and nonverbal IQ-matched controls. Individuals with ASD were able to initially shift sets, but they exhibited difficulty maintaining new response sets. Difficulty with set maintenance was related to increased severity of RRBs. General difficulty maintaining new response sets and a heightened tendency to revert to old preferences may contribute to RRBs.
KeywordsCognitive flexibility Insistence on sameness Repetitive behavior
This research was funded by the NICHD Autism Center of Excellence P50HD055751, MH092696, and Autism Speaks. These funding agencies had no role in study design, data analysis, or manuscript preparation. The data presented in this manuscript have not been published elsewhere, and the authors do not have any conflicts of interest directly related to these data to disclose.
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