Memory & Autism

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To explain the prodigious savant particularly, with such innate access to the vast syntax and rules of art, mathematics, music and even language, in the absence of any formal training and in the presence of major disability, a third kind of memory capacity -- "ancestral" or "genetic" memory -- it seems to me, must exist along with the cognitive/semantic and procedural/habit memory described elsewhere on this site. Ancestral memory is the genetic transmission of sophisticated knowledge (beyond instincts). Perhaps as such it is better named genetic memory.
Darold Treffert
Judi Beinstein Miller
Studies suggest the brain organises memories far differently than believed and that even people with severe amnesia can form some type of long-term memory.
Associated Press
The problems inherent in retrieving accurate, episode-specific information from a system with the biological and functional properties of human memory are complex.
Daniel Schacter
The present review emphasizes how lesion and functional neuroimaging evidence converge to identify the neural networks and characterize the mnemonic processes of long-term memory systems. (Annual Review of Psychology)
J.D.E. Gabrieli
Many believe cyclic amp-response element binding protein and its cousins are essential for the process of sealing memories in the mind. They hope that zeroing in on the molecules will lead to therapies that manipulate memory.
Leah Ariniello
Describes their research findings on infants' and toddlers' growing abilities to understand and use the language and symbols of their culture
Susan Engel, Judy DeLoache, Katherine Nelson
The amygdala has strong connections with the hippocampus which is important in memory and recall. Perhaps deficits in this limbic network may account for the deficit of emotional recall we found in subjects with autism spectrum disorder.
D.Q. Beversdorf, J.M. Anderson, S.E. Manning, S.L. Anderson, R.E. Nordgren, G.J. Felopulos, S.E. Nadeau, K.M. Heilman, M.L. Bauman
Even if the hippocampus - the part of the brain long thought of as being critical for memory - is damaged, the underlying regions can still carry out some important memory functions.
Jules Asher
It is known that the adult visual memory system is fractionable into functionally independent cognitive subsystems, selectively susceptible to brain damage. In addition, there have been hints from studies with individuals with autism that these cognitive subsystems can fractionate developmentally. However, there has been a paucity of systematic investigations. The present study involves the analysis of visual memory of a population of individuals with autism and age- and VIQ-matched comparison individuals. The individuals with autism presented selective impairments in face recognition in comparison to both the age- and VIQ-matched comparison populations. In addition, they were impaired relative to the age-matched comparison group on recognition memory for potential agents (i.e. objects capable of self-propelled motion) whether they were living (cats and horses) or non-living (motorbikes). In contrast, they were selectively superior relative to the VIQ-matched comparison group on recognition memory for such objects as topographical stimuli (buildings) and leaves that clearly do not have agency. The data is interpreted in terms of reduced sensitivity to agency cues in individuals with autism and general information processing capacity.
R. Blair et al
First, the basic pattern of neuronal organization appears to be largely intrinsic to the developing brain. A second concept is that neuronal activity strengthens immature synaptic connections between neurons, whereas inactive synapses weaken and die away.
Paul Lombroso
Medial temporal lobe structures are essential for just one kind of memory, which has come to be termed declarative memory. Other kinds of memory, collectively termed nondeclarative memory, have been linked to other brain systems.
Stuart Zola, Larry Squire
Pavlovian fear conditioning has served as a powerful animal model of fear and anxiety disorders including phobia, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and possibly many of the “neurotic” associations of everyday life.
Kerry Ressler, Michael Davis
The absence of various members of the ERK signaling cascade have dramatic effects on the ability of knock-out mice to learn new tasks.
J. David Sweatt, Edwin Weeber, Paul Lombroso
Explicit memories require the brain regions within the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex including the hippocampus. Implicit memories are primed in the specific sensory and motor systems that are recruited for whatever the particular task is.
Leah Ariniello
Together, these findings suggest that the combination of inhibition and working memory (as reflected in Conflict IC tasks) may be central to the relation between EFand false belief understanding.
Stephanie Carlson et al
Memory is the next part of our model of the user as an information processing system. There are generally three types of memory: sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder have impaired ability to use context, which may manifest as alterations of relatedness within the semantic network. However, impairment in context use may be more difficult to detect in high-functioning adults with ASD. To test context use in this population, we examined the influence of context on memory by using the "false memory" test. In the false memory task, lists of words were presented to high-functioning subjects with ASD and matched controls. Each list consists of words highly related to an index word not on the list. Subjects are then given a recognition test. Positive responses to the index words represent false memories. We found that individuals with ASD are able to discriminate false memory items from true items significantly better than are control subjects. Memory in patients with ASD may be more accurate than in normal individuals under certain conditions. These results also suggest that semantic representations comprise a less distributed network in high-functioning adults with ASD. Furthermore, these results may be related to the unusually high memory capacities found in some individuals with ASD. Research directed at defining the range of tasks performed superiorly by high-functioning individuals with ASD will be important for optimal vocational rehabilitation.
David Beversdorf, Brian Smith, Gregory Crucian, Jeffrey Anderson, Jocelyn Keillor, Anna Barrett, John Hughesh, Gretchen Felopulosi, Margaret Bauman, Stephen Nadeau, Kenneth Heilman
Memory in patients with ASD may be more accurate than in normal individuals under certain conditions. These results also suggest that semantic representations comprise a less distributed network in high-functioning adults with ASD.
David Q. Beversdorf, Brian W. Smith, Gregory P. Crucian, Jeffrey M. Anderson, Jocelyn M. Keillor, Anna M. Barrett, John D. Hughes, Gretchen J. Felopulos, Margaret L. Bauman, Stephen E. Nadeau, Kenneth M. Heilman
Insulin is known for its body actions. It regulates the cells' consumption of the full-packed sugar glucose. Studies indicate that one of the hormone's brain roles involves memory.
Leah Ariniello
When the material to be remembered is diverse (e.g., some items spoken and some printed; some words and some tones; or some verbal and some nonverbal items), the scene is not coherent and multiple retrievals result in considerably better recall.
Nelson Cowan
"Theory of mind" is primarily a label for the research area that investigates the conceptual system that underlies our ability to impute mental states (what we know, think, want, feel, etc.) to others and ourselves. The study of these concepts is essential for our understanding of memory insofar as memory is not just storage of information, but is also dependent on knowledge of our own information storage processes. In Tulving and Madigan's (1970, p. 477) words we should "start looking for ways of experimentally studying and incorporating into theories ... of memory one of the truly unique characteristics of human memory: its knowledge of its own knowledge." To have such higher order knowledge one needs a concept of knowledge and other mental states. Memory development should, therefore, be seen in the light of the acquisition of mental concepts, i.e., the child's growing theory of mind.
Josef Perner
We focus on the nature of memory deficits in individuals with mental retardation with the hope of contributing to the development of a more general cognitive theory of mental retardation.
Norman Bray et al
Dr. Jonathan Schooler - "Words Get in the Way: A Tasteful Exploration"; Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Dr. Jonathan Schooler - "Memory Myths, Malleabilities, and Madness: A Question of Trauma, Truth, and Testimony"; Dr. Robert Sapolsky - "Stress and Memory: Forget It!"; Dr. Alison Gopnik - "I Knew It When I Was a Little Tiny Baby: How Children's Memory Differs from Ours"; Dr. Arthur Shimamura - "Memory, Aging, and the Brain"; Lewis Hyde "Remebering and Forgetting".
Memory processes, which are part of a complex working memory system, are reflected by oscillations in the theta band, whereas long-term memory processes are reflected by alpha oscillations.
Wolfgang Klimesch
...the eliciting of rules and the development of rule-based strategies tended to be specific in the particular areas of ability of these subjects.
N. O'Connor, B. Hermelin, Science Frontiers
Insights into neuronal operations that take place in the brain systems involved in different types of memory, with the aim of leading to quantitative biologically plausible neuronal network models of how each of these memory systems actually operates.
Edmund Rolls
A useful technique for learning names that does not require effortful or novel mnemonic techniques and that can be adopted almost anywhere that a new group of moderate size would benefit from getting to know the names of other members.
Peter Morris, Catherine Fritz
This study examined memory functions in individuals with autism. Based on previous evidence of executive function (EF) deficits, we hypothesized that subjects with autism would demonstrate a pattern of intact and impaired memory functions similar to that found in other groups with EF deficits, such as patients with frontal lobe pathology. We compared the performance of high-functioning children and adolescents with autism (n = 19) and clinical comparison subjects (n = 19) matched on sex, CA, and VIQ on measures of memory and EF. The group with autism performed significantly worse than comparison subjects on measures of temporal order memory, source memory, supraspan free recall, working memory, and EF, but not on short- and long-term recognition, cued recall, or new learning ability, consistent with the predictions of the EF theory. The cognitive measures were significantly more intercorrelated in the autism group than the comparison group, consistent with a limit in central cognition.
Nancy J. Minshew, Gerald Goldstein
BACKGROUND: There are two accounts of categorization performance in autism: that there is an impairment in prototype formation (Klinger & Dawson, 2001) and that there is an impairment in processing features held in common between stimuli (Plaisted, O'Riordan, & Baron-Cohen, 1998). These accounts, together with central coherence theory (Frith, 1989; Frith & Happé, 1994), imply a reduced or absent prototype effect in autism. METHOD: Children with autism or Asperger syndrome (n = 15) matched on age, gender, and verbal mental age with typically developing children (n = 15) completed a picture recognition task (Experiment 1). These participants also studied categories of cartoon animals possessing either an average prototype structure (Experiment 2) based on (Younger's 1985) stimuli or a modal structure (Experiment 3) based on (Hayes and Taplin's 1993b) stimuli. Following the study phases, participants completed recognition tests comprising prototypes and other exemplars with varying degrees of similarity to the prototypes. RESULTS: For both participant groups, recognition memory appeared intact (Experiment 1) and a full prototype effect in recognition memory was observed in both Experiment 2 and Experiment 3. CONCLUSIONS: The present studies fail to support predictions of impaired prototype effects in autism. The discussion focuses on key methodological differences between these studies and those that support claims that central coherence, prototype formation, and common feature processing are impaired in autism.
C.J. Molesworth et al
We present a new model of remembering in the context of conditional discrimination. It is a behavioral model in that choice is determined by its reinforcement history.
K. Geoffrey White, John Wixted
Some memories are linked to a specific time and place, allowing one to re-experience the original event, whereas others are accompanied only by a feeling of familiarity. The hippocampus selectively supports the retrieval of episodic memories.
Laura L. Eldridge, Barbara J. Knowlton, Christopher S. Furmanski, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Stephen A. Engel
This study tested the hypothesis that children with autism are impaired in using verbal encoding and rehearsal strategies in the service of working memory. Participants were 24 high-ability, school-age children with autism and a comparison group matched on verbal and non-verbal IQ, receptive and expressive vocabulary, and visual memory. Working memory was assessed using verbal and non-verbal variants of a non-spatial, self-ordered pointing test [Petrides, M., & Milner, B. (1982). Deficits on subject-ordered tasks after frontal- and temporal-lobe lesions in man. Neuropsychologia, 20, 249-262] in which children had to point to a new stimulus in a set upon each presentation without repeating a previous choice. In the verbal condition, the stimuli were pictures of concrete, nameable objects, whereas in the non-verbal condition, the stimuli were not easily named or verbally encoded. Participants were also administered a verbal span task to assess non-executive verbal rehearsal skills. Although the two groups were equivalent in verbal rehearsal skills, the autism group performed significantly less well in the verbal, but not the non-verbal, self-ordered pointing test. These findings suggested that children with autism are deficient in the use of verbal mediation strategies to maintain and monitor goal-related information in working memory. The findings are discussed in terms of possible autistic impairments in episodic memory as well as working memory.
Robert M. Joseph et al
Researchers found that subjects with ASD performed better on a false-memory test than did normal control subjects. An impaired ability to use context improved the ASD subjects' ability to recognize which words had been on a word list.
The terms word retrieval problem or word finding difficulty imply that the person knows and understands the word, and has used it correctly before. However, they have difficulty retrieving such known words at times.
Caroline Bowen
Memory tasks were administered to 14 high-functioning individuals with autism and 14 typically developing individuals matched on chronological age and verbal intelligence. The tasks consisted of free and cued recall of 15 semantically unrelated words in 3 encoding conditions: phonological encoding, semantic encoding, and a no encoding orientation. In both groups, semantic orientation led to better free recall than did orientation toward syllabic encoding or absence of orientation. In contrast, semantic cues at retrieval led to better cued recall than phonological cues in typically developing individuals, whereas both types of cue had the same effect in prompting cued recall for individuals with autism. These findings are incompatible with the hypothesis of an amnesic deficit and do not support the notion of executive or semantic deficits in the memory problems of autistic individuals, at least for those with a high level of functioning. It is proposed that these findings can be accounted for by enhanced phonological processing in autism. This interpretation is consistent with other findings of enhanced processing of low-level perceptual information in the visual and auditory modality in autism.
L. Mottron et al
A pattern of efficient verbal short-term memory paired with limits in working memory was found to characterize children with autism in the present study, and also captured a significant proportion of the variance in language tasks.
Inge-Marie Eigsti, Loisa Bennetto
The study shows that memory in high functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder is facilitated by emotional content to a lesser degree than it is facilitated by coherence.
D Q Beversdorf et al
Memory clearly does not operate in a vacuum, and hence memory accuracy and error may need to be analyzed in the context of the personal and social goals of the rememberer.
Asher Koriat
An insight from computer science was that information storage can be characterized in terms of a data structure and the processes that operate on it.
Michael Humphreys
The working memory system contains specializations for different verbal processes and that one such specialization is used for the integrated processes involved in the determination of the meaning of discourse.
David Caplan
Memory serves perception and action. Memory meshes non-projectable features with projectable features of the environment to suggest actions for that person in that situation. These patterns of action are what make the environment meaningful.
Arthur Glenberg
People with autism and related disorders have difficulty using context as a memory guide, but this trait may actually help them remember some types of information.
The process of syntactic development requires a child to match co-occurrences of words or parts of words (morphemes) and their meanings. This matching demands the integration of multiple, probabilistic cues from the linguistic, social, and real-world contexts, and thus may depend on working memory.
Inge-Marie Eigsti

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