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J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Apr;36(3):381-94.

The development of face processing in autism.

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  • 1Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center, University of North Carolina, CB# 3367, Chapel Hill, 27599-3367, USA.


Both behavioral and neuroimaging evidence indicate that individuals with autism demonstrate marked abnormalities in the processing of faces. These abnormalities are often explained as either the result of an innate impairment to specialized neural systems or as a secondary consequence of reduced levels of social interest. A review of the developmental literature on typical and atypical face processing supports a synthesis of these two hypotheses by demonstrating that face processing is an emergent and developmental skill that is heavily mediated by early experience with faces. Individuals with autism may possess central nervous system irregularities that fail to attribute special status to faces, thereby limiting the visual input required for the development of neural regions specialized for face processing.

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