Deconstructing executive deficits among persons with autism: Implications for cognitive neuroscience

Natalie Russo, Tara Flanagan, Grace Iarocci, Darlene Berringer, Philip David Zelazo, Jacob A. Burack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Individuals with autism demonstrate impairments on measures of executive function (EF) relative to typically developing comparison participants. EF is comprised of several processes including inhibition, working memory and set shifting that develop throughout the lifespan. Impairments in EF may appear early in development and persist, or may represent a more transient delay which resolves with time. Given the unevenness of the cognitive profile of persons with autism, understanding the development of EF poses methodological challenges. These issues include those related to matching measures and the choice of comparison participants to which the performance of persons with autism will be compared. In the current review, we attempt to break down the processes of inhibition, working memory and set shifting among persons with autism. We propose to do this within a developmental perspective that highlights how matching measures and comparison participants can affect the interpretation of research findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Cognitive development
  • Executive function
  • Methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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