Executive Function Abilities in Autism and Tourette Syndrome: An Information Processing Approach


Requests for reprints to: Sally Ozonoff, PhD, Department of Psychology, 502 Behavioral Science Building, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, U.S.A.


Abstract— This study used information processing paradigms to provide a detailed examination of executive function abilities in autism. The performance of non-retarded autistic children was compared with that of two matched control groups, one with Tourette Syndrome and the other developmentally normal. Autistic subjects performed as well as controls on tasks requiring global-local processing and inhibition of neutral responses. In contrast to both control groups, however, the autistic sample was significantly impaired on a measure of cognitive flexibility. The performance of children with Tourette Syndrome did not differ from that of normal controls on any task. These results refine our knowledge about executive dysfunction in autism and suggest a new conceptual framework and general method for investigating the cognitive underpinnings of neurodevelopmental disorders.