Inter-individual cognitive variability in children with Asperger's syndrome

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Jul 31:8:575. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00575. eCollection 2014.


Multiple studies have tried to establish the distinctive profile of individuals with Asperger's syndrome (AS). However, recent reports suggest that adults with AS feature heterogeneous cognitive profiles. The present study explores inter-individual variability in children with AS through group comparison and multiple case series analysis. All participants completed an extended battery including measures of fluid and crystallized intelligence, executive functions, theory of mind, and classical neuropsychological tests. Significant group differences were found in theory of mind and other domains related to global information processing. However, the AS group showed high inter-individual variability (both sub- and supra-normal performance) on most cognitive tasks. Furthermore, high fluid intelligence correlated with less general cognitive impairment, high cognitive flexibility, and speed of motor processing. In light of these findings, we propose that children with AS are characterized by a distinct, uneven pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

Keywords: Asperger's syndrome; executive functions; fluid intelligence; individual variability; theory of mind.