A study by NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (CPEA) at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has found that autistics recall letters using different parts of their brains than non-autistic people. Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain activity of 14 individuals with high functioning autism while they performed a simple memory task involving letters of the alphabet. The volunteers were shown a sequence of letters. After each letter, they were asked to name the letter that preceded it. In some cases, they were asked to name the letter that appeared two letters previously. The autism volunteers’ brain activation patterns were compared to a control group of people who did not have autism, but were of a similar age and I.Q. level. The scans revealed different brain activation patterns between the two groups. Compared to the control group, the volunteers with autism showed more activation in the right hemisphere, or half, of the brain, and less activation in the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere takes the lead in processing letters, words and sentences, whereas the right hemisphere plays a larger role in processing shapes and visual information.
Original press release.