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Trends Cogn Sci. 1999 May;3(5):192-200.

Asperger syndrome: a simple matter of white matter?

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  • 1School of Psychology, Cardiff University, PO Box 901, Cardiff, UK CF1 3YG.


Asperger syndrome, one of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, is formally diagnosed on the basis of a cluster of cognitive, social and motor signs. It is also associated with poor visuo-spatial skills, good verbal performance, gauche social behaviour and clumsiness. Many of the difficulties evident in those with Asperger syndrome are closely associated with right-hemisphere dysfunction. In this respect they also resemble signs used to diagnose what has been labelled Nonverbal Learning Disorder. Here, these are treated as being the same or closely-related disorders with a possible common underlying aetiology; that is, a neurodevelopmental abnormality affecting white matter. This review examines the ability of this approach to account for a wide range of characteristics of the Asperger syndrome, and contrasts this with a theory-of-mind approach, which, although able to account for the primary features of Asperger syndrome, is less successful at explaining some of its secondary features.

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