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Local vs. global approaches to reproducing the Rey Osterrieth complex figure by children, adolescents, and adults with high-functioning autism

Authors

  • Emily S. Kuschner,

    1. Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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  • Kimberly E. Bodner,

    1. Autism Center of Excellence, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri
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  • Nancy J. Minshew

    Corresponding author
    1. Autism Center of Excellence, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    2. Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Autism Center of Excellence, 3811 O'Hara Street, Suite 300 Webster Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-2593
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Abstract

Individuals with autism have an atypical pattern of visual processing. Various studies have provided evidence that individuals with autism perceive the details of stimuli before the gestalt, the reverse of the typical pattern of visual processing. This study used the Rey Osterreith Complex Figure (ROCF) task and an objective scoring system to examine local/global processing approaches to its reproduction in 37 individuals diagnosed with high-functioning autism (HFA) compared to 49 age-, IQ-, and gender-matched typically developing controls (TD). The sample was divided into children (aged 8–14 years) and adolescents/adults (aged 15–47 years) to assess age effects. Results showed no difference in overall performance on the ROCF between HFA and TD children. TD participants displayed improved organizational and planning skills with age and a shift to global processing approaches, but there were no differences in performance between children and adolescents/adults with HFA. There was no evidence of enhanced local processing in either HFA group. These findings suggest that HFA individuals with average IQ scores do not have the clinically demonstrable evidence of the enhanced local processing thought to reflect increased local brain connectivity in more severely autistic individuals. The deficient global processing of the HFA adults reflects dependence of performance on impaired strategic problem-solving abilities, which has been demonstrated to result from under development of neural connectivity between visuo-spatial and frontal brain regions in HFA adults.

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