Exploring the neurocognitive basis of episodic recollection in autism

Cooper, R.A. & Simons, J.S. (2017). PsyArXiv. doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/U9MJG.

Increasing evidence indicates that recollection of previous experiences is diminished in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The neurocognitive basis of this memory deficit has been debated and various theoretical accounts proposed, but recent research questions whether any of these explanations are sufficient. This review considers cognitive neuroscience evidence concerning how recollection operates in the neurotypical population, informing predictions about the encoding and retrieval mechanisms that might function atypically in ASD. We review existing studies of recollection in ASD, which have often not been capable of distinguishing between different theoretical perspectives. Recent evidence, motivated by novel developments within the neurotypical literature, points to task-specific functional connectivity differences, rather than region-specific dysfunction, as being useful for understanding recollective retrieval deficits in ASD. These developments highlight the potential value of ASD for enhancing our understanding how memory processes operate in the typical brain. We make suggestions for future research that are important for further specifying the neurocognitive basis of episodic recollection in ASD and linking such difficulties to social developmental and educational outcomes.