Goal-Directed Action Representation in Autism

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Abstract

The aim of the present study was to investigate the ability of individuals with autism to represent goal-directed behavioural actions. We compared the performance of subjects with autism (n = 16), mentally retarded subjects (n = 14) and normal healthy subjects (n = 15) in a sequencing task consisted in arranging pictures of single events in their appropriate order so as to make coherent stories. Three types of actions were presented: (a) actions on objects; (b) actions on objects in a broader spatio-temporal context; (c) interactive actions. Autistic subjects were impaired in arranging sequences of actions on objects, as compared to both control groups. This impairment might contribute to explaining both executive deficits and difficulties in understanding others' behaviour in autism.

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