Thursday, June 18, 2009

People with autism faster problem solvers, new research shows

From The Telegraph in the UK:

In an echo of Oscar-winning movie Rain Man which features a brilliant autistic played by Dustin Hoffman, those with the disorder were found to be up to 40 per cent faster at a difficult test.

Researchers said autistic people who took part in their study had surpassed their expectations.

Fifteen autistic and 18 non-autistic people were tested for the research.

The participants were asked to complete patterns in the Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM), intelligence tests which measure problem-solving and learning skills.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Montreal and Harvard University and published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Lead author of the study Isabelle Soulires said: "While both groups performed RSPM test with equal accuracy, the autistic group responded more quickly and appeared to use perceptual regions of the brain to accelerate problem-solving.

"Some critics argued that autistics would be unable to complete the RSPM because of its complexity, yet our study shows autistics complete it as efficiently and have a more highly developed perception than non-autistics.

"The Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices are among the most complex tests to provide insight on how a person understands and formulates rules, manages goal hierarchies and performs high-level abstractions.

Experts said this study showed that autistics have 'efficient' reasoning abilities."

There are thought to be more than half a million people in Britain who suffer from autism.

Sufferers often have difficulties with social interaction and communication.

Rain Man was released in 1998 and tells the story of Charlie Babbitt, played by Tom Cruise, who discovers that his father has left all of his multi-million dollar estate to his brother Raymond whom he knew nothing about.

Raymond is an 'autistic savant' who has a superb memory. The film won four Oscars in 1988 including Best Picture.