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Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(8):894-905.

Interpreting gaze in Turner syndrome: impaired sensitivity to intention and emotion, but preservation of social cueing.

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  • 1Behavioural and Brain Sciences, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK.


Women with Turner's syndrome (TS), who lack a complete X-chromosome, show an impairment in remembering faces and in classifying "fear" in face images. Could their difficulties extend to the processing of gaze? Three tasks, all of which rely on the ability to make use of the eye-region of a pictured face, are reported. Women with TS were impaired at judging mental state from images of the upper face ("reading the mind in the eyes"). They were also specifically impaired at interpreting "fear" from displays of the eye-region of the face. However, they showed normal susceptibility to direction of gaze as an attentional cue (social cueing), since they were as sensitive as controls to the validity of the cue, under conditions where it should be ignored. In this task, unlike those of reading the upper face for intention or expression, PIQ accounted for a significant amount of individual variance in task performance. The processing of displays of the eye region affording social and affective information is specifically affected in TS. We speculate that amygdala dysfunction is likely to be implicated in this anomalous behaviour. The presence in the female karyotype of two complete X-chromosomes is protective for some socio-cognitive abilities related to the modulation of behaviour by the interpretation of gaze.

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