Aspergers and memory – part 1: ‘sequencing’

During the past few months, I have not been writing about Aspergers because I have been doing a bit of reading up about it – there is so much ‘food for thought’ in the feedback to my earlier posts on Aspergers (thank you all) that I just had to check some things out.  Of course, not all my curiosity has been satisfied – but I think that I have learned things that have helped me make a little bit of sense of some ‘Aspie patterns’.

The one thing I have read about the most is memory.  And if you Google it, there actually are quite a few studies about Aspergers and Memory out there – so I, an Aspie (and definitely NOT an expert) am not the only one to suspect that one of the ways Aspies differ is in the way our memory works.

The conclusions of the studies were unsurprising:  Aspie memory works slightly differently. 

Yes, there were IQ tests as part of many of these studies to ensure that Aspies and ‘others’ of ‘similar’ intelligence were compared.  Some looked at adults, others at kids or teens.  (Many studies I read looked at Aspies vs. Autistics, but  that is a different story.)  (Frank admission:  while I read some studies completely, others I only read the ‘hypothesis’, the ‘methodology’ and ‘conclusions’ sections.  This was not from slacking or taking shortcuts, but because I really wanted to read many different studies, from different areas, looking at different age groups, run with different goals, so as to get a glimpse of the ‘big picture’ and the patterns within it. )

Here is where I must warn you:  the scientific studies I read made observations and conclusions.  Various studies, various observations and conclusions.  What follows here is my interpretation of the conclusions of several of these studies.  It is NOT any opinion (as far as I know) of a professional in this field.  These are my higly subjective ideas, so, please, treat them as nothing more than such.

Several of the studies had (with variations) presented a list of words which the people had a chance to read several times (or, variously, study for a given time period), and then had to repeat in the same (or reverse) order.  The Aspies usually remembered fewer of the words from the list than their peers.  Now, here is the intereseting bit:  they were absolutely terrible at putting the words into the proper order!

This immediately made me think of the very high incidence of dyslexia and ‘hearing dyslexia’ (Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)) in Aspies.  I may have it backwards, but it sounds to me like this difficulty in ‘putting things into order’ is a pattern:  sounds, letters and words cannot be ‘remembered’ in the ‘right order’….  But with APD, the science tells us it is a problem in ‘perception’. 

So, I reasoned, perhaps this is a general ‘processing’ difference of the brain itself.  Perhaps this is not a simple ‘memory’ function.  Perhaps this is telling us something about the overall processing that the brain does – and how an Aspie brain does it differently.

Or it could be a memory function – but the memory fails very, very early on. 

Let’s consider hearing:  our ears sense vibrations, which are translated into a neural impulse.  This impulse travels into the bit of the brain which makes sense of the sound, and sends the ‘translated’ information to other bits of the brain, as required.  For example, if it determines a sound to be ‘words’, it might send the message to the ‘language’ section of the brain.  But, is all of this instantaneous?

In many people it is.  But I don’t think this is in any way universal.  For example, I know several people who can hear me say something and completely fail to react to it.  When I ask them what I said, they look thoughtful and then repeat word for word what I had said.  Yet, until they were requested to repeat the words, they were completely unaware that they had even heard them.

It’s as if the phrase were held in some sort of a ‘buffer’, completely preserved and perfectly remembered, but not deciphered by the brain.  Only when this ‘buffer’ was consciously accessed did the brain actually get access to the information in it.  This suggests to me that in-between the different ‘processing’ stages, the brain must hold the information in some sort of a memory slot. 

And if the Aspie memory has a predisposition to ‘jumbling up’ the order of sounds (or pictures) it is holding on to, it could explain all of these.  Jumbled up sounds, pictures, order of words.  All of it.

Or, it could be something completely different.  Yet, I have received so many messages from people, asking for more of my observations about Aspergers – as well as offering me their perspectives about what I wrote – that I thought that even though I really am not sure what it all means, putting this observation ‘out there’ might be a good idea.

This way, I hope, many of you will share your own experiences in this and together, perhaps, we can make more sense of this!

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2 Responses to “Aspergers and memory – part 1: ‘sequencing’”

  1. Charles Thomas Wild Says:

    For your information, regarding ADHD Inattentive and memory (short attention span, medium attention span, long attention span) see:
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ADHD_Bulletin_Board/
    For some users (not all users)…
    Coffee Jump-starts Short-term Memory
    http://www.rsna.org/rsna/media/pr2005/Coffee.cfm

    Aspergers and memory – part 1: ’sequencing’
    September 13, 2008 — xanthippa


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