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Title: Cognitive mechanisms underlying savant skills in autism
Author: Wallace, Gregory Lawrence
ISNI:       0000 0004 2697 1227
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis aimed to investigate possible cognitive underpinnings of sayant skills in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Since savant skills are overrepresented amongq individuals with ASD, several cognitive functions thought to be intact or enhanced in these individuals were hypothesised to contribute to savant skill development. In particular, central coherence, implicit learning, perceptual functioning, and infonnation processing speed were assessed in a group of nonsavant children with ASD (n=28), age, IQ, and gender (group-wise) matched controls (n=28), a group of typicall~' developing children (n=64), and finally a series of four savants with ~~SD. Consistent with previous reports, weak central coherence, Intact implicit learning and infonnation processing speed, and particularly good ability to reproduce a time window were shown in both savant and nons avant individuals with ASD. Savants also showed indications of good memory and idiosyncratic sensory functioning. As predicted, there was evidence that infonnation processing speed was IQ independent in ASD whereas it was significantly related to IQ in both comparison groups. There was also preliminary indication, via correlations and subgroup analyses, of cross modal central coherence, particularly within the ASD group. A "gateway model", in which certain cognitive functions need to be intact (or superior) in order for individuals (especially those with ASD) to develop savant skills, was proposed to account for these findings. The present findings are preliminary in nature but provide indications that certain cognitive functions more characteristic of the cognitive profile in .\SD may be necessary but insufficient for savant skill development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available