Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



Evidence for a deficit in procedural learning in children and adolescents with autism: Implications for cerebellar contribution


STEWART H.  MOSTOFSKY a1a2c1, MELISSA C.  GOLDBERG a4, REBECCA J.  LANDA a1a4 and MARTHA B.  DENCKLA a1a2a3a4
a1 Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
a2 Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
a3 Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
a4 Department of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

Abstract

To examine the hypothesis that abnormalities in those cognitive functions for which cerebellar components have been implicated contribute to the pathophysiology of autism, tests of judgment of explicit time intervals and procedural learning were administered to 11 participants with autism and 17 age-and-IQ-matched controls. Results indicated that the group with autism demonstrated significant impairments in procedural learning compared with the group of controls. No significant difference in judgment of explicit time intervals was found. The data suggest that deficits in procedural learning may contribute to the cognitive and behavioral phenotype of autism; these deficits may be secondary to abnormalities in cerebellar–frontal circuitry. (JINS, 2000, 6, 752–759.)

(Received August 6 1999)
(Revised November 3 1999)
(Accepted November 9 1999)


Key Words: Autism; Procedural learning; Motor learning; Timing; Cerebellum; Cognition.

Correspondence:
c1 Reprint requests to: Stewart H. Mostofsky, M.D., Department of Developmental Cognitive Neurology, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 707 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail: mostofsky@kennedykrieger.org