According to a latest study it is shown that people with autism may suffer from deficiencies in a part of their brain responsible for handling spatial memory. Studies on autistic individuals have shown they often demonstrate deficits in higher-order thinking abilities, including impairments involving language, working memory, and voluntary response inhibition. These problems lead to the typical symptoms of the disease, which is characterized by inflexibility, the tendency to insist on adhering to strict rules, and difficulty adapting to new situations.
Many of the higher-order thinking abilities impaired in autism are linked to a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. Investigators from the University of Texas studied whether problems with spatial working memory are also linked to abnormalities in the prefrontal circuitry.
The study involved 15 autistic patients and 10 healthy volunteers. All underwent spatial memory tests while undergoing MRI scans of their brains. Results showed autistic subjects had significantly less activity in prefrontal brain areas when trying to complete the spatial tasks than the healthy volunteers.
Researchers conclude abnormalities in this area of the brain may play a role in autism. They write: "Higher-order cognition, which continues to develop throughout childhood and adolescence, could be especially compromised with disconnectivity of frontal circuitry. Hence, higher-order cognitive processes may be impaired in autism owing to a lack of functional integration of frontal regions in distributed systems that may reflect abnormality in brain maturation."