Neuropsychological mechanisms of Digit Symbol Substitution Test impairment in Asperger Disorder

Roni Yoran-Hegesh, Semion Kertzman, Tali Vishne, Abraham Weizman, Moshe Kotler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Our aim was to investigate the neurocognitive mechanisms recruited by adolescents with Asperger Disorder (AD), in comparison to controls, and to detect the underlying mechanisms during the complex information processing required for the performance of the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST). Male adolescents (n = 23; mean age 15.1 ± 3.6 years) with a DSM-IV diagnosis of AD were compared with a normal male control group with similar demographic characteristics (n = 43; mean age: 15.1 ± 3.6 years). A computerized neurocognitive battery was administered and included: Inspection Time (IT), Finger Tapping Test (FTT), Simple Reaction Time (SRT), Choice Reaction Time (CRT), Digit Running task (DRT), Stroop test and Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST). Adolescents with AD performed significantly worse than controls on the DSST. This impaired DSST performance was related to cognitive mechanisms different from those employed by normal controls. Motor slowness and inability to deal with increased amounts of information affected the performance of the AD group, while shifting of attention was the limiting factor in the controls. Both groups were similarly dependent on response selection. This study demonstrated differences in performance in complex cognitive tasks between adolescents with AD and normal controls that may be related to differences in neurocognitive mechanisms underlying information processing. Future neuroimaging studies are needed to clarify the neural network involved in the differences in cognitive performance between AD subjects and normal controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 31 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Asperger's Disorder
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Digit Symbol Substitution Test
  • Information processing
  • Motor speed
  • Shifting of attention


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