Autistic spectrum disorders and schizophrenia spectrum disorders are two typical neurodevelopmental disorders. Recent findings suggest that despite the different onset age, these two disorders share quite a lot of common genes, cognitive, emotional and social impairments.
There is also significant comorbidity between autistic and schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The relationship between these two disorders warrants further investigation. One commonly observed behavioural problem in these children include response inhibition. However, it is still not clear whether these two disorders share the similar or different underlying cognitive processing of response inhibition.
Dr. Raymond Chan and SHI Lijuan from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have attempted to investigate the response inhibition between children with autism and schizophrenia.
In doing so, they recruited demographically matched 23 male children with autism and 23 male children with schizophrenia, and 32 typically developing controls and examined their response inhibition performances based on different sensory modalities.
They administered a set of response inhibition tasks capturing auditory, verbal and visual sensory modalities to all the participants.
Their findings showed that despite both children with autism and schizophrenia exhibited impairments in auditory, verbal and visual response inhibition tasks comparing to typically developing children, male children with schizophrenia reacted significantly slower, at the same time committing fewer errors, than their male autistic counterparts only in the visual response inhibition task.
On the other hand, male children with schizophrenia exhibited significantly more impairments than autistic children in the auditory response inhibition task but similarly in the verbal response inhibition task.
These findings may help us to classify and differentiate autistic children from schizophrenia children out from their typically developing counterparts.
Moreover, the observed pattern of impairments in response inhibition may also help us to formulate more tailor-made rehabilitation for these two clinical cases in the near future.
This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Programme, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, the Humanity and Social Science Youth foundation of the Ministry of Education, and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.
This study is now available online from Autism Research.
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