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Elaine C. Zachi, Thiago L. Costa, Daniela R. Tsubota, Mirella T. Barboni, Marcelo F. Costa, Dora F. Ventura; Visuo-Spatial Memory and Color Vision Deficits in Patients with High-Functioning Autism. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2012;53(14):6393.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The Autism Spectrum Disorders literature has focused on social cognition dysfunction, atypical perception and, executive function impairment. There is a lack of research on visual memory abilities and visual sensory function on Autism. The present study examined the possibility of impairment on visuo-spatial memory and color vision in patients with High-Functioning Autism (HFA).
8 HFA patients (males, age range: 06 to 13 years old) and 24 male, age matched controls were tested. The participants had intellectual scores in the normal range according to the Raven Matrices Test. Cognitive performance was assessed with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), using tests of spatial short term memory (Spatial Recognition Memory, SRM), short and long term visual memory (Pattern Recognition Memory, PRM), and perception and memory for complex stimuli presented simultaneously or after short interval (Delayed Matching to Sample, DMS). Color vision was evaluated with the Cambridge Color Test (CCT) to measure color discrimination thresholds.
The HFA participants performed significantly worse than controls on the Spatial Recognition Memory test (Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA, p=0.02). No statistical differences were found for tests that required perception/memory for detailed shapes with saturated chromatic non-structured information (PRM and DMS). Color vision assessment revealed that patient's CCT ellipses were wider than the controls' around all axes (p=0.01).
Memory impairment for spatial information, but not for object perception, in HFA supports the "weak central coherence hypothesis" that autistic individuals show ability in processing fine detail, but deficits in processing contextual structure and motion information. The result is also in agreement with previous findings of association between weak central coherence and abnormal functioning of the magnocellular pathway, since SRM stimuli - achromatic low spatial frequency - are supposed to be processed preferentially by the magnocellular pathway. Color vision was impaired diffusely rather than in selective chromatic processing pathway. Mechanisms for chromatic loss may be either at the retinal level and/or reflect reduced cortical integration.
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