Reduced Efficiency and Capacity of Cognitive Control in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Melissa Ann Mackie, Jin Fan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Cognitive control constrains mental operations to prioritize information that reaches conscious awareness and is essential to flexible, adaptive behavior under conditions of uncertainty. Cognitive control can be compromised by neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is characterized by the presence of social and communicative deficits, and restricted interests/repetitive behaviors. Although prior investigations have attempted to elucidate the nature of cognitive control in ASD, whether there is an underlying information processing deficit associated with cognitive control remains unclear. This study challenged cognitive control in 15 high-functioning adults with ASD and 15 typically developing (TD) controls using three novel tasks designed to systematically manipulate uncertainty. We aimed to investigate the efficiency of cognitive control in sequential information processing, cognitive control of nonsequential information processing across a range of cognitive loads and cognitive control capacity under time constraint. Results demonstrated that the ASD group performed less efficiently on sequential and nonsequential information processing, and had reduced cognitive control capacity under time constraint relative to the TD group. These findings suggest that inefficient cognitive control of information processing may be a fundamental deficit in ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-414
Number of pages12
JournalAutism Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Cognitive control
  • Executive functions
  • Information processing
  • Information theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)

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