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Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2002 Jul;17(5):461-75.

High-functioning autism and schizophrenia: a comparison of an early and late onset neurodevelopmental disorder.

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  • 1VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, 7180 Highland Drive (151R), Pittsburgh, PA 15206, USA.


Autism and schizophrenia are separate neurodevelopmental disorders that share a number of interpersonal and cognitive deficits. The symptoms of autism first appear during early life while schizophrenic symptoms do not typically appear until adolescence at the earliest. Efforts have been made to characterize the pattern of cognitive function in both disorders, and certain resemblances have become apparent such as deficits in abstract reasoning and the more complex aspects of memory and language. The present study provided a comparison of cognitive function between the two disorders. The autistic sample consisted of well-diagnosed individuals with high-functioning autism (IQ> or =70). The schizophrenic sample was divided into four subgroups using Ward's method of cluster analysis. Participants received the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R), the Halstead Category Test, the Trail Making test, and the Wisconsin Card Sorting test (WCST). The profile of the autism sample was compared with the four schizophrenia cluster profiles. The autism group resembled only one of the schizophrenia clusters, with both showing elevations on the WAIS-R Information and Block Design subtests and depressions on Comprehension and Digit Symbol. It was concluded that individuals with high-functioning autism have a cognitive profile that resembles that of an empirically derived subgroup of schizophrenia patients but that does not resemble profiles found in other schizophrenia subgroups. The pattern itself, marked by a relatively depressed score on the Comprehension subtest among the Verbal subtests and a relatively elevated score on Block Design among the Performance subtests, has been characterized in the past as a prototypic profile for high-functioning autism.

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