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J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 May;44(5):1039-54. doi: 10.1007/s10803-013-1955-z.

Face and object discrimination in autism, and relationship to IQ and age.

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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.


The current study tested fine discrimination of upright and inverted faces and objects in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as compared to age- and IQ-matched controls. Discrimination sensitivity was tested using morphed faces and morphed objects, and all stimuli were equated in low-level visual characteristics (luminance, contrast, spatial frequency make-up). Participants with ASD exhibited slight, non-significant impairments in discrimination sensitivity for faces, yet significantly enhanced discrimination sensitivity for objects. The ASD group also showed a protracted development of face and object inversion effects. Finally, for ASD participants, face sensitivity improved with increasing IQ while object sensitivity improved with age. By contrast, for controls, face sensitivity improved with age, but neither face nor object sensitivity was influenced by IQ. These findings suggest that individuals with ASD follow a qualitatively different path in the development of face and object processing abilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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