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Neuroreport. 2012 Aug 1;23(11):668-72. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283556658.

Getting to know you: the acquisition of new face representations in autism spectrum conditions.

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  • 1Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


Social difficulties form a part of the canonical description of autism spectrum conditions (ASC), and the development of familiarity with new faces is a key ability required to navigate the social world. Here, we investigated the acquisition of new face representations in ASC by analysing the N170 and N250 event-related potential components induced by a previously unfamiliar face that was embedded in a series of other unfamiliar faces. We found that participants with ASC developed a smaller N250 component to the target face, indicating that the development of new face representations is impaired. We also found that the participants with ASC showed a smaller N170 component to both the target and the nontarget faces. This highlights the role of the early stages of face detection, structural encoding and attention in the formation of face memories in the typical population and implicates the dysfunction of these stages in the manifestation of the social difficulties observed in ASC.

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