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High-functioning autism patients share similar but more severe impairments in verbal theory of mind than schizophrenia patients

  • L. N. W. Tin (a1), S. S. Y. Lui (a1) (a2), K. K. Y. Ho (a1), K. S. Y. Hung (a1), Y. Wang (a2), H. K. H. Yeung (a1), T. Y. Wong (a1) (a3), S. M. Lam (a1), R. C. K. Chan (a2) (a4) and E. F. C. Cheung (a1)...

Abstract

Background

Evidence suggests that autism and schizophrenia share similarities in genetic, neuropsychological and behavioural aspects. Although both disorders are associated with theory of mind (ToM) impairments, a few studies have directly compared ToM between autism patients and schizophrenia patients. This study aimed to investigate to what extent high-functioning autism patients and schizophrenia patients share and differ in ToM performance.

Methods

Thirty high-functioning autism patients, 30 schizophrenia patients and 30 healthy individuals were recruited. Participants were matched in age, gender and estimated intelligence quotient. The verbal-based Faux Pas Task and the visual-based Yoni Task were utilised to examine first- and higher-order, affective and cognitive ToM. The task/item difficulty of two paradigms was examined using mixed model analyses of variance (ANOVAs). Multiple ANOVAs and mixed model ANOVAs were used to examine group differences in ToM.

Results

The Faux Pas Task was more difficult than the Yoni Task. High-functioning autism patients showed more severely impaired verbal-based ToM in the Faux Pas Task, but shared similar visual-based ToM impairments in the Yoni Task with schizophrenia patients.

Conclusions

The findings that individuals with high-functioning autism shared similar but more severe impairments in verbal ToM than individuals with schizophrenia support the autism–schizophrenia continuum. The finding that verbal-based but not visual-based ToM was more impaired in high-functioning autism patients than schizophrenia patients could be attributable to the varied task/item difficulty between the two paradigms.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Simon S Y Lui, E-mail: lsy570@ha.org.hk

References

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