Cerebellar dysfunction, cognitive flexibility and autistic traits in a non-clinical sample

Nicole J. Ridley*, Judi Homewood, Jenny Walters

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Cerebellar dysfunction and impaired cognitive flexibility are key features of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, despite the increasing interest in subclinical autism, no research has yet examined the relationship between these signs and autistic traits in the wider population. This study used the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) questionnaire to assess autistic traits in university students enrolled in either systems-oriented or humanities degree programmes. Participants also completed a battery of motor tasks designed to assess cerebellar function, and subscales from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) battery. Students enrolled in systems-oriented degrees had on average higher AQ scores than students enrolled in humanities degrees. The data showed a significant correlation between autistic traits and motor function scores, as well as between autistic traits and verbal set-shifting ability, as assessed on the D-KEFS. These data provide support for the autistic spectrum hypothesis, in indicating that key cognitive, neurological and behavioural features of autism carry over into non-clinical populations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)728-745
    Number of pages18
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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