International Meeting for Autism Research: Comparing Face and Object Recall with Clinical Instruments for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Comparing Face and Object Recall with Clinical Instruments for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
1:00 PM
L. Guy , Psychology, Marcus Autism Center, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
D. Glass , Psychology, Marcus Autism Center, Atlanta, GA
T. Cermak , Psychology, Marcus Autism Center, Atlanta, GA
J. Campbell , Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia
O. Ousley , Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
K. Rockers , Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine
A. Pakula , Pediatrics, Marcus Autism Center, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA

Deficits in social cognition constitute core difficulties for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). One important domain of social cognition involves appropriate encoding, discrimination, recognition, and recall of faces. Specific impairments in processing faces versus objects have been described in the literature for ASD with evidence that memory for faces may be impaired despite intact memory for objects. Selectively impaired processing of faces may impact social communication as failure to appropriately encode, discriminate, recognize, and recall faces may affect reciprocal social interactions and lead to interpersonal difficulties.


The purposes of this study are: (a) to examine the ability of individuals with ASD to recall faces using the Memory for Faces (MF) and Memory for Faces Delayed (MFD) subtests of the NEPSY-II, a neuropsychological measure with limited data reported for individuals with ASD, (b) to compare face versus object recall for individuals with ASD using the NEPSY-II MF and MFD subtests and the Differential Ability Scales – Second Edition (DAS) Recall of Objects-Immediate (ROI) and Recall of Objects-Delayed (ROD) subtests, and (c) to examine if facial memory uniquely predicts ASD symptomatology as rated by clinicians, parents, and teachers.


Participants are 59 children ages 5.3 – 16.75 years who participated in the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a multiple site, university-based research study, which collects genetic and phenotypic information from families that have one child with ASD. The SSC battery includes the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), an intelligence test, and parent and teacher report versions of the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). For the study, additional measures were collected: (a) the MF and MFD subtests from the NEPSY-II, and (b) the ROI and ROD subtests from the DAS-II. The MF task is designed to assess encoding, discrimination, and recognition of faces. The MFD task assesses long-term memory for faces. The ROI and ROD subtests assess immediate and short-term recall of objects.


Descriptive data analysis will be used to examine participants’ NEPSY-II and DAS-II subtest performance. Dependent samples t tests will be utilized to examine if individuals show better object versus face processing for immediate (i.e., MF-ROI contrast) and long-term recognition (i.e., MFD-ROD contrasts). Hierarchical regression analysis will be used to determine if NEPSY-II task performance predicts social communication impairments as measured by various clinical instruments, such as ADOS, parents’ ratings of ASD symptomatology (i.e., SRS Parent scores), and teachers’ ratings of ASD symptomatology (i.e., SRS Teacher scores). The unique contribution of NEPSY-II test performance will be examined in hierarchical fashion with chronological age and cognitive functioning entered prior to NEPSY-II test scores.


Findings will provide additional information regarding the phenotypic expression of ASD and the clinical utility of NEPSY-II social perception tasks.  In particular, findings will add to our understanding of the uniqueness of impairments for face versus object processing and recognition for a well-defined group of children with ASD. Further, findings will contribute knowledge regarding the potential utility of the NEPSY-II to identify social perception deficits with individuals with ASD.

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