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Int J Dev Neurosci. 2008 Apr;26(2):239-47. Epub 2007 Nov 13.

Cognitive control in autism spectrum disorders.

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University of California, Davis, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, United States.


Cognitive control refers to the ability to flexibly allocate mental resources to guide thoughts and actions in light of internal goals. Given the behavioral inflexibility exhibited by individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), it would appear they experience cognitive control deficits. Cognitive correlates of this behavioral inflexibility have been elusive in previous investigations. Study goals were to investigate deficits in cognitive control in ASDs; to explore its developmental trajectory; and to test whether control deficits are related to symptoms of inflexible thoughts and/or behaviors, and attention symptoms. Thirty-one children and adolescents aged 8-17 with ASDs and 32 age, IQ, and gender matched control subjects completed cognitive, diagnostic, and behavorial assessments, as well as a measure of cognitive control involving overcoming a prepotent response tendency. Compared with typically developing control subjects, individuals with ASDs exhibited deficits in cognitive control. Younger children with ASDs did not demonstrate age-related improvements in cognitive control. Modest relationships between cognitive control, IQ, and attention problems were found for the sample. Only the relationship between cognitive control and full-scale IQ survived correction for multiple comparisons.

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