Posted June 23, 2009

People with autism may be faster problem solvers than those who do not have autism, Canadian and U.S. researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, suggests autism may be a common neurodevelopmental disability characterized by profound differences in information processing and analysis but those with autism have efficient reasoning abilities that build on their perceptual strengths.

The researchers at the University of Montreal and Boston’s Harvard University researchers asked study participants to complete patterns in the Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices — a test that measures hypothesis testing, problem solving and learning skills.

“While both groups performed RSPM test with equal accuracy, the autistic group responded more quickly and appeared to use perceptual regions of the brain to accelerate problem solving,” lead study author Isabelle Soulieres, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University who completed the experiment at the University of Montreal, said in a statement.

“Some critics argued that autistics would be unable to complete the RSPM because of its complexity, yet our study shows autistics complete it as efficiently and have a more highly developed perception than non-autistics.”

The 15 autistic and 18 non-autistic participants — ages14-36 — were matched according to their preliminary results on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to explore the participants’ neural activity during RSPM problem-solving, the study said.

Date: June 17, 2009 URL:

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