People With Autism Better at Problem Solving

| by News Medical Net

From News-Medical Net

Autistics are up to 40 percent faster at problem-solving than non-autistics,
according to a new Université de
and Harvard
study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

As part of the investigation, participants were asked to complete patterns in
the Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM) - 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," says lead author Isabelle Soulières, a
post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University who completed the experiment at the
Université de Montréal. "Some critics agued 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

Fifteen autistics and 18 non-autistics were recruited for the study.
Participants were 14 to 36 years old and matched according to their preliminary
results on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. All subjects underwent
magnetic resonance imaging to explore their neural activity during RSPM
problem-solving. While autism is a common neurodevelopmental disability
characterized by profound differences in information processing and analysis,
this study showed that autistics have efficient reasoning abilities that build
on their perceptual strengths.

"This study builds on our previous findings and should help educators
capitalize on the intellectual abilities of autistics," says senior researcher
Laurent Mottron, the new Marcel & Rolande Gosselin Research Chair in Autism
Cognitive Neuroscience of the Université de Montréal and psychiatry professor.
"The limits of autistics should constantly be pushed and their educational
materials should never be simplified."

Adds Dr. Soulières: "The Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices are among the
most complex tests to provide insight on how a person understands and formulates
rules, manages goal hierarchies and performs high-level abstractions. Our wager
was that autistics could complete such a test and they surpassed our