Autistic Individuals and Exceptional Memory

Autistic Individuals and Exceptional Memory

The area of interest: Memory
Applied setting: Mental Health
Autistic Individuals and Exceptional Memory

  1. Why do autistic individuals have a poor short-term memory and an exceptional long-term memory?
  2. Does the mind’s compensatory nature explain the relatively exceptional long-term memory of autistic individuals?
  3. How can focussing on the brain’s declarative memory assist autistic children learn and socialize normally?
  4. How can declarative memory, more pronounced in autistic individuals, be used to compensate for emotional and social deficits in autistic individuals?
  5. What makes some autistic individuals have exceptional memories?
  6. How can exceptional memories among autistic individuals be tapped to help individuals live normal lives?
  7. What role does declarative memory have in boosting the memory of autistic individuals?

Research shows that for the most part certain functions of the brain remain functional even in some neurodevelopmental disorders. At times these brain functionsplay a compensatory role for various types of mental impairments similar to how the left hemisphere may compensate for right hemisphere impairment (Basso, Gardelli, Grassi, & Mariotti, 1989). One such function is declarative memory, a key memory and learning system in the brain that facilitates learning and storage of explicit knowledge and which remains intact in autistic individuals (Squire & Wixted, 2011). Since it remains functional, and it can learn and retain varied information, functions, and tasks, research suggests that it can be used to play a compensatory role for compound types of mental impairments across autistic individuals (Ullman & Pullman, 2015). For example, boostingautistic individuals’ memory, a concept referred to as declarative memory compensation hypothesis. This research seeks to investigate the validity of the declarative memory compensation hypothesis among autistic children in the context of the noted exceptional long-term memory among autistic individuals.


Basso, A., Gardelli, M., Grassi, M. P., & Mariotti, M. (1989). The role of the right hemisphere in recovery from aphasia. Two case studies Cortex. 555-566.

Squire, L. R., & Wixted, J. T. (2011). The cognitive neuroscience of human memory since H.M. Annual Review of NeuralScience, 259-288.

Ullman, M. T., & Pullman, M. Y. (2015). A compensatory role for declarative memory in neurodevelopmental disorders. Neuriscience Biobehaviour, 205-222.

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