-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism and
average IQs consistently did better on math tests than non-autistic
children in the same IQ range, according to a small new study.
The superiority in math skills among children with autism was
tied to patterns of activation in a particular area of the brain,
an area normally associated with recognizing faces and visual
"There appears to be a unique pattern of brain organization that underlies superior problem-solving abilities in children with autism," study senior author Vinod Menon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said in a university news release.
The study included 18 children with autism, aged 7 to 12, and a
control group of 18 children without autism. All participants
showed normal verbal and reading skills on standardized tests, but
the children with autism outperformed their peers without autism on
standardized math tests.
The researchers also had all of the children work on math
problems while their brain activity was measured using MRI. The
brain scans of the children with autism revealed an unusual pattern
of activity in the ventral temporal occipital cortex, an area of
the brain specialized for processing faces and other visual
The study will be published online Aug. 17 in the journal
"[Previous research] has focused almost exclusively on weaknesses in children with autism," said Menon, a member of the Child Health Research Institute at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. "Our study supports the idea that the atypical brain development in autism can lead not just to deficits, but also to some remarkable cognitive strengths. We think this can be reassuring to parents."
Menon said children with autism sometimes exhibit exceptional
talents or skills. For example, some can instantly recall the day
of the week of any calendar date within a particular range of
years, and others have outstanding math skills.
"Remembering calendar dates is probably not going to help you with academic and professional success," Menon said. "But being able to solve numerical problems and developing good mathematical skills could make a big difference in the life of a child with autism."
About one in 88 children has some form of autism, according to
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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