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Adult ASD and Social/Nonsocial Cognitive Impairment

JAMA Psychiatry; ePub 2019 Jan 2; Velikonja, et al

Results of a recent meta-analysis suggest that adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show impairments in social cognitive domains and in specific nonsocial cognitive domains. These findings contribute to the understanding of the patterns of cognitive functioning in adults with ASD and may assist in the identification of targets for cognitive interventions. A literature search performed in an academic medical setting was conducted and was limited to studies published between 1980 (first inclusion of autism diagnosis in the DSM-III) and July 2018. Of 9,892 articles identified and screened, 75 met the inclusion criteria for the systematic review and meta-analysis. Researchers found:

  • The combined sample consisted of 3,361 individuals with ASD (mean [SD] age, 32.0 [9.3] years; 75.9% male) and 5,344 neurotypical adults (mean [SD] age, 32.3 [9.1] years; 70.1% male).
  • Adults with ASD showed large impairments in theory of mind and emotion perception and processing, followed by medium impairments in processing speed and verbal learning and memory.
  • The least altered cognitive domains were attention and vigilance and working memory.

Velikonja T, Fett A-K, Velthorst E. Patterns of nonsocial and social cognitive functioning in adults with autism spectrum disorder. A systematic review and meta-analysis. [Published online ahead of print January 2, 2019]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3645.