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 objects.
"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 objects.