Better working memory for non-social targets in infant siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Authors


Julia S. Noland, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Peabody, Box #552, 230 Appleton Place, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203-5701, USA; e-mail: julia.noland@vanderbilt.edu

Abstract

We compared working memory (WM) for the location of social versus non-social targets in infant siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (sibs-ASD, = 25) and of typically developing children (sibs-TD, n = 30) at 6.5 and 9 months of age. There was a significant interaction of risk group and target type on WM, in which the sibs-ASD had better WM for non-social targets as compared with controls. There was no group by stimulus interaction on two non-memory measures. The results suggest that the increased competency of sibs-ASD in WM (creating, updating and using transient representations) for non-social stimuli distinguishes them from sibs-TD by 9 months of age. This early emerging strength is discussed as a developmental pathway that may have implications for social attention and learning in children at risk for ASD.

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