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      Temporarily Out of Order: Temporal Perspective Taking in Language in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

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          Clinical reports suggest that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) struggle with time perception, but few studies have investigated this. This is the first study to examine these children’s understanding of before and after. These temporal conjunctions have been argued to require additional cognitive effort when conjoining two events in a clause order that is incongruent with their order in time. Given the suggested time perception impairment and well-established cognitive deficits of children with ASD, we expected them to have difficulties interpreting temporal conjunctions, especially in an incongruent order. To investigate this, the interpretation of before and after in congruent and incongruent orders was examined in 48 children with ASD and 43 typically developing (TD) children (age 6–12). Additional tasks were administered to measure Theory of Mind (ToM), working memory (WM), cognitive inhibition, cognitive flexibility, IQ, and verbal ability. We found that children with ASD were less accurate in their interpretation of temporal conjunctions than their TD peers. Contrary to our expectations, they did not have particular difficulties in an incongruent order. Furthermore, older children showed better overall performance than younger children. The difference between children with ASD and TD children was explained by WM, ToM, IQ, and verbal ability, but not by cognitive inhibition and flexibility. These cognitive functions are more likely to be impaired in children with ASD than in TD children, which could account for their poorer performance. Thus, the cognitive factors found to affect the interpretation of temporal language in children with ASD are likely to apply in typical development as well. Sufficient WM capacity and verbal ability may help children to process complex sentences conjoined by a temporal conjunction. Additionally, ToM understanding was found to be related to children’s interpretation of temporal conjunctions in an incongruent order, indicating that perspective taking is required when events are presented out of order. We conclude from this that perspective-taking abilities are needed for the interpretation of temporal conjunctions, either to shift one’s own perspective as a hearer to another point in time, or to shift to the perspective of the speaker to consider the speaker’s linguistic choices.

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          Most cited references 59

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          The episodic buffer: a new component of working memory?

           Alan Baddeley (2000)
          In 1974, Baddeley and Hitch proposed a three-component model of working memory. Over the years, this has been successful in giving an integrated account not only of data from normal adults, but also neuropsychological, developmental and neuroimaging data. There are, however, a number of phenomena that are not readily captured by the original model. These are outlined here and a fourth component to the model, the episodic buffer, is proposed. It comprises a limited capacity system that provides temporary storage of information held in a multimodal code, which is capable of binding information from the subsidiary systems, and from long-term memory, into a unitary episodic representation. Conscious awareness is assumed to be the principal mode of retrieval from the buffer. The revised model differs from the old principally in focussing attention on the processes of integrating information, rather than on the isolation of the subsystems. In doing so, it provides a better basis for tackling the more complex aspects of executive control in working memory.
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            N-back working memory paradigm: a meta-analysis of normative functional neuroimaging studies.

            One of the most popular experimental paradigms for functional neuroimaging studies of working memory has been the n-back task, in which subjects are asked to monitor the identity or location of a series of verbal or nonverbal stimuli and to indicate when the currently presented stimulus is the same as the one presented n trials previously. We conducted a quantitative meta-analysis of 668 sets of activation coordinates in Talairach space reported in 24 primary studies of n-back task variants manipulating process (location vs. identity monitoring) and content (verbal or nonverbal) of working memory. We found the following cortical regions were activated robustly (voxelwise false discovery rate = 1%): lateral premotor cortex; dorsal cingulate and medial premotor cortex; dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex; frontal poles; and medial and lateral posterior parietal cortex. Subsidiary meta-analyses based on appropriate subsets of the primary data demonstrated broadly similar activation patterns for identity monitoring of verbal stimuli and both location and identity monitoring of nonverbal stimuli. There was also some evidence for distinct frontoparietal activation patterns in response to different task variants. The functional specializations of each of the major cortical components in the generic large-scale frontoparietal system are discussed. We conclude that quantitative meta-analysis can be a powerful tool for combining results of multiple primary studies reported in Talairach space. Here, it provides evidence both for broadly consistent activation of frontal and parietal cortical regions by various versions of the n-back working memory paradigm, and for process- and content-specific frontoparietal activation by working memory.
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              Self-projection and the brain.

              When thinking about the future or the upcoming actions of another person, we mentally project ourselves into that alternative situation. Accumulating data suggest that envisioning the future (prospection), remembering the past, conceiving the viewpoint of others (theory of mind) and possibly some forms of navigation reflect the workings of the same core brain network. These abilities emerge at a similar age and share a common functional anatomy that includes frontal and medial temporal systems that are traditionally associated with planning, episodic memory and default (passive) cognitive states. We speculate that these abilities, most often studied as distinct, rely on a common set of processes by which past experiences are used adaptively to imagine perspectives and events beyond those that emerge from the immediate environment.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                05 September 2018
                : 9
                1Center for Language and Cognition Groningen (CLCG), University of Groningen , Groningen, Netherlands
                2Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen , Groningen, Netherlands
                Author notes

                Edited by: Danielle DeNigris, Fairleigh Dickinson University, United States

                Reviewed by: Janie Busby Grant, University of Canberra, Australia; Wing Chee So, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

                *Correspondence: Petra Hendriks, p.hendriks@

                This article was submitted to Cognition, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2018 Overweg, Hartman and Hendriks.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 4, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 74, Pages: 12, Words: 0
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