Construction of Past and Future Events in Children and Adolescents with ASD: Role of Self-relatedness and Relevance to Decision-Making
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We studied episodic memory and future thinking for self-relevant and other-relevant events at different levels of retrieval support, theory of mind, and delay discounting in ASD children and adolescents (ASDs). Compared to typically developing controls, ASDs produced fewer internal (episodic) but a similar number of external (semantic) details while remembering past events, imagining future events, and imagining future events happening to others, indicating a general impairment of event construction. This deficit was driven by group differences under high retrieval support, and therefore unlikely to depend on self-initiated retrieval/construction deficits. ASDs’ event construction impairment related to the severity of ASD symptoms, and to theory of mind deficits. ASDs, however, showed normal delay discounting, highlighting preserved forms of future-based decision-making in ASD.
KeywordsEpisodic memory Future thinking Autism spectrum disorder Delay discounting Theory of mind
This work was supported by grants from the University of Bologna (Ricerca Fondamentale Orientata) to E.C., and by a ‘Ricerca Corrente’ (Annual research program) grant from the Italian Ministry of health to the IRCCS - Fondazione Stella Maris. We are grateful to all of participants who took part in this study and their parents. We thank Violetta Knyagnytska for serving as the second independent scorer for participants’ reports.
EC, RI, SS, and EB conceived the study. All authors contributed to the study design. RI, SS, FT, and NG tested participants. EC and EB analyzed the data. EC wrote the paper. All authors reviewed the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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