Reality monitoring and metamemory in adults with autism spectrum conditions

Cooper, R.A., Plaisted-Grant, K.C., Baron-Cohen, S., & Simons, J.S. (2016). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 2186-2198.

Studies of reality monitoring (RM) often implicate the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in distinguishing, monitoring, and remembering internal and external information; a region which has been linked to autism-related deficits in social and self-referential information processing, executive function, and memory. However, results from RM studies in autism are inconsistent and the behavioural basis of any impairment is unclear. This study used two RM conditions (self-other; perceived-imagined) to investigate RM and metamemory in adults with autism. The autism group showed a deficit in RM, which did not differ across source conditions, and both groups exhibited a self-encoding benefit on recognition and source memory. Metamemory for perceived-imagined information, but not for self-other information, was significantly lower in the autism group. Therefore, reality monitoring and metamemory, sensitive to mPFC function, appear impaired in autism, highlighting a difficulty in remembering and monitoring internal and external details of past events.