‘Theory of mind’ does not fade with age among autistic adults

Published by: Spectrum News
Written by: Peter Hess

Autistic people’s ability to understand another person’s thinking does not diminish with age, as it does for non-autistic people, a new study shows1.

Researchers evaluated ‘theory of mind’— or the ability to infer someone’s mental state — in autistic and non-autistic adults. Many autistic people struggle with this cognitive skill, research has shown.

In the new study, younger non-autistic people demonstrated greater theory of mind than both younger autistic people and older autistic and non-autistic people. Older and younger autistic people, though, were largely similar.

“Our results show that there seems to be no significant decline in understanding others’ minds with age in autism,” says study investigator Esra Zıvralı Yarar, assistant professor of psychology at the Social Sciences University of Ankara in Turkey.

The findings also suggest that the brains of autistic people do not age in the same way as those of non-autistic people, she says, at least with regard to some functions.

“This paper is a well-designed experimental investigation,” says Uta Frith, emeritus professor of cognitive development at University College London in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the work. “Any paper that reports on older people with autism is welcome, because we are so ignorant about cognitive changes that come with age.” Click here to read the rest of the story.

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