February 18th is International Asperger’s Day, a still relatively unknown disorder among the general population. Today, NeuronUP would like to discuss Asperger’s from a neuropsychological point of view.
What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome, a neurological condition, is considered to be an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that affects how the brain processes information.
Boys are more likely than girls to have autism. Currently, one female is diagnosed with Asperger’s for every four males.
In what areas do people with Asperger’s have difficulties?
- Social relationships
- Mental and Behavioral inflexibility
Asperger Syndrome affects individuals in different ways although they share common characteristics:
- Often have difficulty managing social relationships, although this does not affect their intellectual ability. They often have average to superior intelligence.
- Are naive and gullible, however, they are also honest, sincere, and loyal.
- Have trouble understanding what other people are thinking or feeling, that is, putting themselves in other people’s shoes.
- Have difficulty keeping up with the pace of a conversation. However, they pay unusual attention to the details of it.
- Get easily upset by changes in routines and transitions.
- Are literal in speech and understanding. Moreover, their vocabulary is extensive, technical, and specialized.
- Are oversensitive to loud sounds, colors, light, odors or tastes.
- Are fixated on one subject or object. They can become experts on certain subjects.
- Are physically awkward in sports.
- Have difficulty making friends of their own age.
Neuropsychology and Asperger Syndrome:
1. Theory of Mind Deficit:
When we mentioned above the inability of people with Asperger’s to put themselves in other people’s shoes, we were talking about the Theory of Mind, a concept that refers to the ability to form internal representations of the mental states of others. Therefore, people with Asperger Syndrome have to learn these social norms because they cannot do so through simple observation.
2.Theory of Executive Dysfunction:
“Executive functions are higher-order skills involved in the energization, regulation, sound execution and on-line readjustment of goal-directed behaviors” (Verdejo-García & Bechara, 2010). Executive functions comprise processes such as working memory, planning, reasoning, cognitive flexibility, inhibition or decision making. Activities of daily living cannot be adequately performed if there are executive functioning problems. However, proper neuropsychological intervention will be key to improving these skills.
3. Theory of Right Hemisphere Dysfunction:
This theory is linked to the limited ability to express and interpret emotional information. The right hemisphere is specialized for visuospatial processing and is directly related to the ability to recognize and interpret facial gestures and expressions and to the regulation of intonation and prosody.