Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 63–71 | Cite as

Effects of Pattern Complexity on the Retrieval Stage of Visual Short-Term Memory in Relation to Autistic-Like Traits

  • Junichi TakahashiEmail author
  • Daichi Yasunaga
  • Jiro Gyoba


Our study aimed to examine the effects of pattern complexity on visual short-term memory (VSTM) at the retrieval stage in typical developing adults with different autism spectrum quotient (AQ) scores. Participants underwent electroencephalography during a same-different task, in which they judged as rapidly and accurately as possible whether the target pattern (S1) was the same or different from the comparison pattern (S2). In the same-different task, pattern complexity (simple and complex patterns) was manipulated. We analyzed two peaks of waveforms (P3b and positive slow wave [PSW]) elicited by S2 and compared them between the high and low AQ groups (each n = 11). The PSW amplitude was greater in the high AQ group than those in the low AQ group (p < .05; ηp2 = 0.14 to 0.15). In particular, although the low AQ group showed lower PSW amplitude for complex patterns than for simple patterns, the high AQ group showed a high PSW amplitude for both simple and complex patterns. The low AQ group had efficient memory search and distinguished between S1 and S2 only for simple patterns while the high AQ group exhibited them for both simple and complex patterns, because the PSW in the retrieval stage may be related to the memory search modulated by cognitive load. Thus, individual differences were observed especially in a high cognitive load (complex patterns). People with high AQ scores show more specific processing at the retrieval stage of VSTM as compared to those with low AQ scores.


Autism spectrum quotient Pattern complexity Retrieval Event-related potential Positive slow wave 


Author Contributions

JT: designed and executed the study, conducted the data analysis, and wrote the paper. DY: collaborated on the design and execution of the study, and assisted with the data analysis. JG: collaborated on the writing and editing of the manuscript.

Funding Information

This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research to J. T. (Grant No. 17K17616).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Statement

All procedures performed in study involving human participants were in accordance with the guidelines of the research ethics committee of Tohoku University.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development, Faculty of Human Development and CultureFukushima UniversityFukushima-shiJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of Letters, Institute of Human and Social SciencesKanazawa UniversityKanazawaJapan
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, Graduate School of Arts and LettersTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

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