The neuropsychology of male adults with high-functioning autism or asperger syndrome.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed on the basis of behavioral symptoms, but cognitive abilities may also be useful in characterizing individuals with ASD. One hundred seventy-eight high-functioning male adults, half with ASD and half without, completed tasks assessing IQ, a broad range of cognitive skills, and autistic and comorbid symptomatology. The aims of the study were, first, to determine whether significant differences existed between cases and controls on cognitive tasks, and whether cognitive profiles, derived using a multivariate classification method with data from multiple cognitive tasks, could distinguish between the two groups. Second, to establish whether cognitive skill level was correlated with degree of autistic symptom severity, and third, whether cognitive skill level was correlated with degree of comorbid psychopathology. Fourth, cognitive characteristics of individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and high-functioning autism (HFA) were compared. After controlling for IQ, ASD and control groups scored significantly differently on tasks of social cognition, motor performance, and executive function (P's < 0.05). To investigate cognitive profiles, 12 variables were entered into a support vector machine (SVM), which achieved good classification accuracy (81%) at a level significantly better than chance (P < 0.0001). After correcting for multiple correlations, there were no significant associations between cognitive performance and severity of either autistic or comorbid symptomatology. There were no significant differences between AS and HFA groups on the cognitive tasks. Cognitive classification models could be a useful aid to the diagnostic process when used in conjunction with other data sources-including clinical history.