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


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
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    • "Thus, it has an important place in development and the 44 understanding of the sense of conceptual " self " (Rochat and Striano, 2002). 45 Self-face recognition has been shown to be impaired in a variety of neurological or developmental 46 disorders such as autism (Uddin et al., 2008), acquired brain injury, and alzheimer disease (Adduri 47 and Marotta, 2009). Concerning schizophrenia, studies on self-face recognition have provided 48 contradictory results, showing either a global face recognition deficit (Lee et al., 2007; Zhang et al., 49 2012; Heinisch et al., 2013) or a specific self-face recognition deficit (Irani et al., 2006; Kircher et al., 50 2007) associated with hallucinations (Kircher et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Self-face recognition has been shown to be impaired in schizophrenia (SZ), according to studies using behavioral tasks implicating cognitive demands. Here, we employed an eye-tracking methodology, which is a relevant tool to understand impairments in self-face recognition deficits in SZ because it provides a natural, continuous and online record of face processing. Moreover, it allows collecting the most relevant and informative features each individual looks at during the self-face recognition. These advantages are especially relevant considering the fundamental role played by the patterns of visual exploration on face processing. Thus, this paper aims to investigate self-face recognition deficits in SZ using eye-tracking methodology. Visual scan paths were monitored in 20 patients with SZ and 20 healthy controls. Self, famous, and unknown faces were morphed in steps of 20%. Location, number and duration of fixations on relevant areas were recorded with an eye-tracking system. Participants performed a passive exploration task (no specific instruction was provided), followed by an active decision making task (individuals were explicitly requested to recognize the different faces). Results showed that patients with SZ had fewer and longer fixations compared to controls. Nevertheless, both groups focused their attention on relevant facial features in a similar way. No significant difference was found between groups when participants were requested to recognize the faces (active task). In conclusion, using an eye tracking methodology and two tasks with low levels of cognitive demands, our results suggest that patients with SZ are able to: (1) explore faces and focus on relevant features of the face in a similar way as controls; and (2) recognize their own face.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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    • "In individuals with ASD, these regions show abnormal gray matter volume (Uddin et al., 2011), abnormal histopathology (Casanova et al., 2006; Oblak et al., 2011), and reduced activation during tasks that require reflecting on emotional states (theory-of-mind and self/other judgments; Castelli et al., 2002; Kana et al., 2014; Lombardo et al., 2010; Uddin et al., 2008). Further, deactivation of DMN regions accurately classified ASD from control subjects (Murdaugh et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Functional pathology of the default mode network is posited to be central to social-cognitive impairment in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Altered functional connectivity of the default mode network's midline core may be a potential endophenotype for social deficits in ASD. Generalizability from prior studies is limited by inclusion of medicated participants and by methods favoring restricted examination of network function. This study measured resting-state functional connectivity in 22 8–13 year-old non-medicated children with ASD and 22 typically developing controls using seed-based and network segregation functional connectivity methods. Relative to controls the ASD group showed both under- and over-functional connectivity within default mode and non-default mode regions, respectively. ASD symptoms correlated negatively with the connection strength of the default mode midline core—medial prefrontal cortex–posterior cingulate cortex. Network segregation analysis with the participation coefficient showed a higher area under the curve for the ASD group. Our findings demonstrate that the default mode network in ASD shows a pattern of poor segregation with both functional connectivity metrics. This study confirms the potential for the functional connection of the midline core as an endophenotype for social deficits. Poor segregation of the default mode network is consistent with an excitation/inhibition imbalance model of ASD.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Clinical neuroimaging
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Cognitive Neuropsychiatry
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