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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2011 Sep;11(3):437-49. doi: 10.3758/s13415-011-0040-3.

Transitive inference in adults with autism spectrum disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, USA.


Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) exhibit intact rote learning with impaired generalization. A transitive inference paradigm, involving training on four sequentially presented stimulus pairs containing overlapping items, with subsequent testing on two novel pairs, was used to investigate this pattern of learning in 27 young adults with ASDs and 31 matched neurotypical individuals (TYPs). On the basis of findings about memory and neuropathology, we hypothesized that individuals with ASDs would use a relational flexibility/conjunctive strategy reliant on an intact hippocampus, versus an associative strength/value transfer strategy requiring intact interactions between the prefrontal cortex and the striatum. Hypotheses were largely confirmed. ASDs demonstrated reduced interference from intervening pairs in early training; only TYPs formed a serial position curve by test; and ASDs exhibited impairments on the novel test pair consisting of end items with intact performance on the inner test pair. However, comparable serial position curves formed for both groups by the end of the first block.

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