Working memory network alterations in high-functioning adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder

Evelien M. Barendse, Lisanne J. Schreuder, Geert Thoonen, Marc P.H. Hendriks, Roy P.C. Kessels, Walter H. Backes, Albert P. Aldenkamp, Jacobus F.A. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Aim: People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) typically have deficits in the working memory (WM) system. WM is found to be an essential chain in successfully navigating in the social world. We hypothesize that brain networks for WM have an altered network integrity in ASD compared to controls. Methods: Thirteen adolescents (one female) with autistic disorder (n = 1), Asperger's disorder (n = 7), or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (n = 5), and 13 typically developing healthy control adolescents (one female) participated in this study. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed using an n-back task and in resting state. Results: The analysis of the behavioral data revealed deficits in WM performance in ASD, but only when tested to the limit. Adolescents with ASD showed lower binary global efficiency in the WM network than the healthy control group with n-back and resting-state data. This correlated with diagnostic scores for total problems, reciprocity, and language. Conclusion: Adolescents with higher-functioning autism have difficulty with the WM system, which is typically compensated. Functional MRI markers of brain network organization in ASD are related to characteristics of autism as represented in diagnostic scores. Therefore, functional MRI provides neuronal correlates for memory difficulties in adolescents with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-83
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • higher functioning
  • network analysis
  • working memory
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term/physiology
  • Nerve Net/diagnostic imaging
  • Asperger Syndrome/diagnostic imaging
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder/diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex/diagnostic imaging
  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Child
  • Functional Neuroimaging/methods


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