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Neurology. 2007 Aug 28;69(9):860-70.

Investigations of face expertise in the social developmental disorders.

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Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



Patients with social developmental disorders (SDD), also known as autism spectrum disorders, may have impaired recognition of facial identity or facial expressions.


Our goal was to determine whether SDDs were characterized by loss of a perceptual mechanism responsible for face expertise, as current theories suggest that such a loss should be selective for upright faces, disproportionately affect the perception of facial configuration, and possibly be more severe in the eye region.


We tested a group of 24 adult patients with SDD with an oddity paradigm that required them to detect changes in facial configuration or feature color, in either the eyes or the mouth, in both upright and inverted faces.


One group of subjects with SDD with normal famous face recognition had only a mild reduction in accuracy and a normal pattern of inversion effects. A second group of subjects with SDD with impaired famous face recognition had a severe reduction of accuracy. This deficit was not limited to upright faces. It affected the perception of feature configuration and feature color to a similar degree and both eye and mouth changes were discriminated poorly in upright faces.


The impaired face recognition that is present in a subset of patients with social developmental disorders is accompanied by impaired face perception, and this impairment is not exclusive to upright faces, facial configuration, or the eye region. The reduced face processing skills in these subjects may be more consistent with recent computational models of face expertise than with classic dual-route hypotheses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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