Savant syndrome has a distinct psychological profile in autism

Hughes, James E A, Ward, Jamie, Gruffydd, Elin, Baron-Cohen, Simon, Smith, Paula, Allison, Carrie and Simner, Julia (2018) Savant syndrome has a distinct psychological profile in autism. Molecular Autism, 9 (53). pp. 1-18. ISSN 2040-2392

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Savant syndrome is a condition where prodigious talent can co-occur with developmental conditions such as autism spectrum conditions (autism). It is not yet clear why some autistic people develop savant skills while others do not.

We tested three groups of adults: autistic individuals who have savant skills, autistic individuals without savant skills, and typical controls without autism or savant syndrome. In experiment 1, we investigated the cognitive and behavioural profiles of these three groups by asking participants to complete a battery of self-report measures of sensory sensitivity, obsessional behaviours, cognitive styles, and broader autism-related traits including social communication and systemising. In experiment 2, we investigated how our three groups learned a novel savant skill—calendar calculation.

Heightened sensory sensitivity, obsessional behaviours, technical/spatial abilities, and systemising were all key aspects in defining the savant profile distinct from autism alone, along with a different approach to task learning.

These results reveal a unique cognitive and behavioural profile in autistic adults with savant syndrome that is distinct from autistic adults without a savant skill.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Autism spectrum conditions; savant syndrome; sensory processing; cognition; perception; talent; skill learning
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Research Centres and Groups: Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science
Sussex Neuroscience
Depositing User: Sanjeedah Choudhury
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2018 14:41
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2018 14:41

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