Neural Basis of Self and Other Representation in Autism: An fMRI Study of Self-Face Recognition

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 02/2008; 3(10):e3526. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003526
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by decreased interest and engagement in social interactions and by enhanced self-focus. While previous theoretical approaches to understanding autism have emphasized social impairments and altered interpersonal interactions, there is a recent shift towards understanding the nature of the representation of the self in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Still, the neural mechanisms subserving self-representations in ASD are relatively unexplored.
We used event-related fMRI to investigate brain responsiveness to images of the subjects' own face and to faces of others. Children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children viewed randomly presented digital morphs between their own face and a gender-matched other face, and made "self/other" judgments. Both groups of children activated a right premotor/prefrontal system when identifying images containing a greater percentage of the self face. However, while TD children showed activation of this system during both self- and other-processing, children with ASD only recruited this system while viewing images containing mostly their own face.
This functional dissociation between the representation of self versus others points to a potential neural substrate for the characteristic self-focus and decreased social understanding exhibited by these individuals, and suggests that individuals with ASD lack the shared neural representations for self and others that TD children and adults possess and may use to understand others.

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Available from: Mirella Dapretto, Sep 26, 2015
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    • "Intact self-recognition was ascribed to any child who touched the rouge upon seeing their reflection. Reports in autism of intact selfrecognition coupled with preliminary reports of typical activation of neural networks when viewing their own faces (Uddin et al., 2008) suggests that children with ASD may fixate typically on their own face and warrants further investigation. It was predicted that: (1) Similar to Sterling et al. (2008) children with ASD will look less at the Eye regions for both familiar and unfamiliar faces compared to the children who are typically developing. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Existing eye-tracking literature has shown that both adults and children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show fewer and slower fixations on faces. Despite this reduced saliency and processing of other faces, recognition of their own face is reported to be more "typical" in nature. This study uses eye-tracking to explore the typicality of gaze patterns when children with ASD attend their own faces compared to other familiar and unfamiliar faces. Methods: Eye-tracking methodology was used to explore fixation duration and time taken to fixate on the Eye and Mouth regions of familiar, unfamiliar and Self Faces. Twenty-one children with ASD (9-16 years) were compared to typically developing matched groups. Results: There were no significant differences between children with ASD and typically matched groups for fixation patterns to the Eye and Mouth areas of all face types (familiar, unfamiliar and self). Correlational analyses showed that attention to the Eye area of unfamiliar and Self Faces was related to socio-communicative ability in children with ASD. Conclusions: Levels of socio-communicative ability in children with ASD were related to gaze patterns on unfamiliar and Self Faces, but not familiar faces. This lack of relationship between ability and attention to familiar faces may indicate that children across the autism spectrum are able to fixate these faces in a similar way. The implications for these findings are discussed.
    Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 08/2014; 19(6):1-16. DOI:10.1080/13546805.2014.943365 · 1.91 Impact Factor
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    • "Apart from being relevant to basic research, investigating the self-other sharedness seems to also be valid from the clinical perspective. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show atypical patterns of differentiating between self-and other-related information (Uddin et al., 2008; Cygan et al., 2014). Lombardo et al. (2010) proposed that ASD is related to difficulties in appreciating the similarities and differences between the self and other people, which results in theory-ofmind (ToM) deficits. "
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    ABSTRACT: One's own name seems to have a special status in the processing of incoming information. In event-related potential (ERP) studies this preferential status has mainly been associated with higher P300 to one's own name than to other names. Some studies showed preferential responses to own name even for earlier ERP components. However, instead of just being self-specific, these effects could be related to the processing of any highly relevant and/or frequently encountered stimuli. If this is the case: (1) processing of other highly relevant and highly familiar names (e.g., names of friends, partners, siblings, etc.) should be associated with similar ERP responses as processing of one's own name and (2) processing of own and close others' names should result in larger amplitudes of early and late ERP components than processing of less relevant and less familiar names (e.g., names of famous people, names of strangers, etc.). To test this hypothesis we measured and analyzed ERPs from 62 scalp electrodes in 22 subjects. Subjects performed a speeded two-choice recognition task-familiar vs. unfamiliar-with one's own name being treated as one of the familiar names. All stimuli were presented visually. We found that amplitudes of P200, N250 and P300 did not differ between one's own and close-other's names. Crucially, they were significantly larger to own and close-other's names than to other names (unknown and famous for P300 and unknown for P200 and N250). Our findings suggest that preferential processing of one's own name is due to its personal-relevance and/or familiarity factors. This pattern of results speaks for a common preference in processing of different kinds of socially relevant stimuli.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 04/2014; 8(1):194. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00194 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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    • "To date, there are limited neuroimaging studies examining selfrecognition in patient populations. One study highlights the neural systems underlying shared representation of self and other in children with autism (Uddin et al., 2008). In response to a selfrecognition task involving morphed images, the right frontal region was activated in typically developing children for self and other faces. "
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    ABSTRACT: Depersonalization disorder (DPD) is characterized by a core sense of unfamiliarity. Nine DPD participants and 10 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing self and unfamiliar faces. Compared with control subjects, the DPD group exhibited significantly greater activation in several brain regions in response to self vs. stranger faces. Implications are discussed.
    Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 04/2014; 222(1). DOI:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2014.02.003 · 2.42 Impact Factor
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