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Neural correlates of own name and own face processing in neurotypical adults scoring low versus high on symptomatology of autism spectrum disorder

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Abstract

Previous event-related potential (ERP) research showed reduced self-referential processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As different self-related stimuli were studied in isolation, it is unclear whether findings can be ascribed to a common underlying mechanism. Further, it is unknown whether altered self-referential processing is also evident in neurotypicals scoring high on ASD symptomatology. We compared ERPs in response to one’s own name and face (versus other names/faces) between neurotypical adults scoring high versus low on ASD symptomatology. Conform previous research, the parietal P3 was enhanced, both for own name and face, indicating a self-referential effect. The N250 was only enhanced for one’s own face. However, the self-referential parietal P3 effect did not correlate between the names and faces conditions, arguing against a common underlying mechanism. No group effects appeared, neither for names nor faces, suggesting that reduced self-referential processing is not a dimensional ASD feature in the neurotypical population.

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This study aimed to elucidate whether distinct early processes underlie the perception of our own face. Alternatively, self-face perception might rely on the same processes that realize the perception of highly familiar faces. To this end, we recorded EEG activity while participants performed a facial recognition task in which they had to discriminate between their own face, a friend's face, and an unknown face. We analyzed the event-related potentials (ERPs) to characterize the time course of neural processes involved in different stages of self-face recognition. Our results show that the N170 component was not sensitive to self-face. In contrast, the subsequent P200 component distinguished between self-face and the other faces. Finally, N250 amplitude increased as a function of face familiarity. Overall, our data suggest that self-face recognition neither emerges at the first stage of the encoding of facial information nor at a later stage when familiarity is processed. Rather, the distinctive processing of self-face arises at an intermediate stage (˜200 ms), as indicated by a lower P200 amplitude. This could be taken as an indicator that self-face recognition is facilitated by a reduced need for attentional resources. In sum, our results suggest that self-face is more than a highly familiar face.
Article
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Article
Drawing on decades of research suggesting an attentional advantage for self-related information, researchers generally assume that self-related stimuli automatically capture attention. However, a literature review reveals that this claim has not been systematically examined. We aimed to fill in this dearth of evidence. Following a feature-based account of automaticity, we set up four experiments in which participants were asked to respond to a target preceded by a cue, which was self-related or not. In Experiment 1, larger cuing effects (faster reaction times to valid versus invalid trials) were found with a participant's own name compared with someone else's name. In Experiment 2, we replicated these results with unconscious cues. Experiment 3 suggested that these effects are not likely driven by familiarity. In Experiment 4, participants experienced greater difficulties from having their attention being captured by their own compared with someone else's name. We conclude that attentional capture by self-related stimuli is automatic in the sense that it is unintentional, unconscious, and uncontrolled. Implications for self-regulation and intergroup relations are discussed.
Paradoxically, individuals with autism spectrum conditions have been characterized as both impaired in self-referential cognitive processing, yet also egocentric. How can the self in autism be both ‘absent’ (i.e., impaired self-referential cognition), yet ‘all too present’ (i.e., egocentric)? In this paper, we first review evidence in support of both claims. Second, we highlight new evidence illustrating atypical function of neural systems underlying self-representation in autism. We suggest that egocentrism and impaired self-referential cognition are not independent phenomena. Instead, both egocentrism and impaired self-referential cognition in autism can be resolved as expressions of one common mechanism linked to the atypical function of neural circuitry coding for self-relevant information. We discuss how autism provides a unique window into the neurodevelopmental mechanisms enabling a critical developmental transition in self-awareness. This transition involves a dual understanding that one is similar to, yet distinct from others. The neural and cognitive basis of this developmental transition is central to understanding the development of social cognition as well as the paradox of the autistic self and its relation to social impairment in autism. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website
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Neural processes underlying the orienting response (OR) to subject's own name (SON) were investigated using the oddball paradigm. Subjects were presented with SON, subject's parent's name, and unfamiliar persons' names while they played a video game and ignored the auditory stimuli. A P3a-like frontal positivity (P440, 440 ms) indexing OR was elicited by SON only when it was the rare stimulus and its amplitude decreased with the repeated presentation of SON. Preceding the P440, SON consistently elicited an early frontal negativity (SON negativity, 170-270 ms), including when SON was the high-probability stimulus, and unlike the P440, this negativity did not habituate. These results conform to the hypothesis that early preattentive processing of speech sounds distinguishes SON from other names irrespective of short-term stimulus context, and that this culminates in an OR only when SON is evaluated as being contextually meaningful.
Article
One's own first-name is a special stimulus: one's attention is more likely captured by hearing one's own first-name than by hearing another first-name. Previous event-related potential (ERP) studies demonstrated that this special stimulus produces differential responses both in active and in passive condition. Such results suggest that passively hearing one's own first-name triggers processing levels generally activated by the explicit detection of stimuli. This questions about the particular power of the own first-name to automatically orient attention, but no study investigated the specific response to this special stimulus in a paradigm designed to study automatic attention orienting. In this ERP study, we compared the responses elicited by the own first-name (OWN) and one unfamiliar first-name (OTHER) presented, rarely, randomly and at the same frequency among repetitive tones (i.e., as novel stimuli in an oddball paradigm) while subjects (N=36) were watching a silent movie with subtitles. We tested at what latency the responses to OWN and OTHER diverge, and whether OWN modulates the brain orienting response (novelty P3). Data analysis showed specific responses to OWN after 300 ms. OWN only evoked a central negativity (320 ms) and a parietal positivity (550 ms). However, OWN had no significant effect on the brain orienting response (260 ms). Our results confirm that the own first-name does elicit a late specific brain response. However, they challenge the idea that in passive condition, the own first-name is systematically more powerful than another first-name to orient attention when it is heard unexpectedly.
Article
Objective: Frontline health professionals need a "red flag" tool to aid their decision making about whether to make a referral for a full diagnostic assessment for an autism spectrum condition (ASC) in children and adults. The aim was to identify 10 items on the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) (Adult, Adolescent, and Child versions) and on the Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT) with good test accuracy. Method: A case sample of more than 1,000 individuals with ASC (449 adults, 162 adolescents, 432 children and 126 toddlers) and a control sample of 3,000 controls (838 adults, 475 adolescents, 940 children, and 754 toddlers) with no ASC diagnosis participated. Case participants were recruited from the Autism Research Centre's database of volunteers. The control samples were recruited through a variety of sources. Participants completed full-length versions of the measures. The 10 best items were selected on each instrument to produce short versions. Results: At a cut-point of 6 on the AQ-10 adult, sensitivity was 0.88, specificity was 0.91, and positive predictive value (PPV) was 0.85. At a cut-point of 6 on the AQ-10 adolescent, sensitivity was 0.93, specificity was 0.95, and PPV was 0.86. At a cut-point of 6 on the AQ-10 child, sensitivity was 0.95, specificity was 0.97, and PPV was 0.94. At a cut-point of 3 on the Q-CHAT-10, sensitivity was 0.91, specificity was 0.89, and PPV was 0.58. Internal consistency was >0.85 on all measures. Conclusions: The short measures have potential to aid referral decision making for specialist assessment and should be further evaluated.
Article
One of the defining characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is difficulty with social interaction and communication with others, or interpersonal interaction. Accordingly, the majority of research efforts to date have focused on understanding the brain mechanisms underlying the deficits in social cognition and language associated with ASD. However, recent empirical and theoretical work has begun to reveal increasing evidence for altered self-representation, or intrapersonal cognition in ASD. Here we review recent studies of the self in ASD, focusing on paradigms examining 'physical' aspects of the self, including self-recognition, agency and perspective taking, and 'psychological' aspects of the self, including self-knowledge and autobiographical memory. A review of the existing literature suggests that psychological, but not physical, aspects of self-representation are altered in ASD. One key brain region that has emerged as a potential locus of self-related deficits in ASD is the medial prefrontal cortex, part of a larger 'default mode network'. Collectively, the findings from these studies provide a more comprehensive framework for understanding the complex social, cognitive, and affective symptomatology of ASD.
Article
Because we live in an extremely complex social environment, people require the ability to memorize hundreds or thousands of social stimuli. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of multiple repetitions on the processing of names and faces varying in terms of pre-experimental familiarity. We measured both behavioral and electrophysiological responses to self-, famous and unknown names and faces in three phases of the experiment (in every phase, each type of stimuli was repeated a pre-determined number of times). We found that the negative brain potential in posterior scalp sites observed approximately 170 ms after the stimulus onset (N170) was insensitive to pre-experimental familiarity but showed slight enhancement with each repetition. The negative wave in the inferior-temporal regions observed at approximately 250 ms (N250) was affected by both pre-experimental (famous>unknown) and intra-experimental familiarity (the more repetitions, the larger N250). In addition, N170 and N250 for names were larger in the left inferior-temporal region, whereas right-hemispheric or bilateral patterns of activity for faces were observed. The subsequent presentations of famous and unknown names and faces were also associated with higher amplitudes of the positive waveform in the central-parietal sites analyzed in the 320-900 ms time-window (P300). In contrast, P300 remained unchanged after the subsequent presentations of self-name and self-face. Moreover, the P300 for unknown faces grew more quickly than for unknown names. The latter suggests that the process of learning faces is more effective than learning names, possibly because faces carry more semantic information.
Article
Since its inception the 'mindblindness' theory of autism has greatly furthered our understanding of the core social-communication impairments in autism spectrum conditions (ASC). However, one of the more subtle issues within the theory that needs to be elaborated is the role of the 'self'. In this article, we expand on mindblindness in ASC by addressing topics related to the self and its central role in the social world and then review recent research in ASC that has yielded important insights by contrasting processes relating to both self and other. We suggest that new discoveries lie ahead in understanding how self and other are interrelated and/or distinct, and how understanding atypical self-referential and social-cognitive mechanisms may lead to novel ideas as to how to facilitate social-communicative abilities in ASC.
Article
Visual perception can be influenced by top-down processes related to the observer's goals and expectations, as well as by bottom-up processes related to low-level stimulus attributes, such as luminance, contrast, and spatial frequency. When using different physical stimuli across psychological conditions, one faces the problem of disentangling the contributions of low- and high-level factors. Here, we make available the SHINE (spectrum, histogram, and intensity normalization and equalization) toolbox for MATLAB, which we have found useful for controlling a number of image properties separately or simultaneously. The toolbox features functions for specifying the (rotational average of the) Fourier amplitude spectra, for normalizing and scaling mean luminance and contrast, and for exact histogram specification optimized for perceptual visual quality. SHINE can thus be employed for parametrically modifying a number of image properties or for equating them across stimuli to minimize potential low-level confounds in studies on higher level processes.
Article
The neuronal response to hearing a subject's own (SON) compared with other names has been examined in healthy subjects as well as in patients with disorders of consciousness. So far, on electroencephalographic data, only event-related potentials (ERPs) were considered. In this study, we examined the frequency properties of SON. Data of 17 healthy subjects were processed for equiprobable stimuli of SON, other- and own-name backwards by calculating ERPs, evoked and induced activity for a period of 2000 ms from stimulus onset in the delta, theta, lower and upper alpha bands and averaging for four consequent temporal segments of 500 ms each. For SON, the N1 component's amplitude was larger, while induced activity in the alpha band decreased in the second temporal segment (of 500-1000 ms). No differences between other- and own-name backwards were found. The late reactivity may indicate responses to a stimulus after having recognised it. Alpha is known to play a role in attention and alertness. The results may reflect the fact that the SON stimulus enhances alertness. The findings correlate previous work about alertness and alpha activity with those about attention capturing of the SON stimulus. We suggest using frequency analysis in research on disorders of consciousness.
Article
Abstract Many psychophysiologists have noted the striking similarities between the antecedent conditions for the P3 component of the event-related potential and the orienting response: both are typically elicited by salient, unexpected, novel, task-relevant, and other motivationally significant stimuli. Although the close coupling of the P3 and orienting response has been well documented, the neural basis and functional role of this relationship is still poorly understood. Here we propose that the simultaneous occurrence of the P3 and autonomic components of the orienting response reflects the co-activation of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system and the peripheral sympathetic nervous system by their common major afferent: the rostral ventrolateral medulla, a key sympathoexcitatory region. A comparison of the functional significance of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system and the peripheral sympathetic nervous system suggests that the P3 and orienting response reflect complementary cognitive and physical contributions to the mobilization for action following motivationally significant stimuli.
Article
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have pervasive impairments in social functioning, which may include problems with processing and remembering faces. In this study, we examined whether posterior ERP components associated with identity processing (P2, N250 and face-N400) and components associated with early-stage face processing (P1 and N170) are atypical in ASD. We collected ERP responses to a familiar repeated face (Familiar), an unfamiliar repeated face (Other) and novel faces (Novels) in 29 high-functioning adults with ASD and matched controls. For both groups, the P2 and N250 were sensitive to repetition (Other vs. Novels) and personal familiarity (Familiar vs. Other), and the face-N400 was sensitive to repetition. Adults with ASD did not show significantly atypical processing of facial familiarity and repetition in an ERP paradigm, despite showing significantly poorer performance than controls on a behavioral test of face memory. This study found no evidence that early-stage facial identity processing is a primary contributor to the face recognition deficit in high-functioning ASD.
Article
Eye movement artifacts in electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings can greatly distort grand mean event-related potential (ERP) waveforms. Different techniques have been suggested to remove these artifacts prior to ERP analysis. Independent component analysis (ICA) is suggested as an alternative method to "filter" eye movement artifacts out of the EEG, preserving the brain activity of interest and preserving all trials. However, the identification of artifact components is not always straightforward. Here, we compared eye movement artifact removal by ICA compiled on 10 s of EEG, on eye movement epochs, or on the complete EEG recording to the removal of eye movement artifacts by rejecting trials or by the Gratton and Coles method. ICA performed as well as the Gratton and Coles method. By selecting only eye movement epochs for ICA compilation, we were able to facilitate the identification of components representing eye movement artifacts.
Article
Self-related information, due to its high social/adaptive value, seems to have a preferential access to our attentional resources (cf. the cocktail party effect). However, it remains uncertain whether this attention preference is the same for different kinds of self-related cues. In this ERP study we showed that self-name and self-face when compared with other names and faces, produced very similar patterns of behavioral and neural responses, i.e., shorter reaction times (RTs) and enhanced P300. The processing of the two self-related cues did not differ between each other, neither in RTs nor in P300 responses. In fact, the amplitudes of P300 to self-name and self-face were correlated. These results suggest that the adaptive value of different kinds of self-related cues tends to be equal and they engage attention resources to a similar extent.
Article
This paper is concerned with methods for analyzing quantitative, non-categorical profile data, e.g., a battery of tests given to individuals in one or more groups. It is assumed that the variables have a multinormal distribution with an arbitrary variance-covariance matrix. Approximate procedures based on classical analysis of variance are presented, including an adjustment to the degrees of freedom resulting in conservativeF tests. These can be applied to the case where the variance-covariance matrices differ from group to group. In addition, exact generalized multivariate analysis methods are discussed. Examples are given illustrating both techniques.
A new off-line procedure for dealing with ocular artifacts in ERP recording is described. The procedure (EMCP) uses EOG and EEG records for individual trials in an experimental session to estimate a propagation factor which describes the relationship between the EOG and EEG traces. The propagation factor is computed after stimulus-linked variability in both traces has been removed. Different propagation factors are computed for blinks and eye movements. Tests are presented which demonstrate the validity and reliability of the procedure. ERPs derived from trials corrected by EMCP are more similar to a 'true' ERP than are ERPs derived from either uncorrected or randomly corrected trials. The procedure also reduces the difference between ERPs which are based on trials with different degrees of EOG variance. Furthermore, variability at each time point, across trials, is reduced following correction. The propagation factor decreases from frontal to parietal electrodes, and is larger for saccades than blinks. It is more consistent within experimental sessions than between sessions. The major advantage of the procedure is that it permits retention of all trials in an ERP experiment, irrespective of ocular artifact. Thus, studies of populations characterized by a high degree of artifact, and those requiring eye movements as part of the experimental task, are made possible. Furthermore, there is no need to require subjects to restrict eye movement activity. In comparison to procedures suggested by others, EMCP also has the advantage that separate correction factors are computed for blinks and movements and that these factors are based on data from the experimental session itself rather than from a separate calibration session.
Article
Auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) were recorded from 10 normal adults in response to their own first names and to other first names spoken on tape. The following experimental conditions were used: 30 repetitions of the subject's first name; 80 other assorted first names from the same gender; 30 repetitions of a first name other than the subject's name. A P3 component was recorded from all ten subjects in response to their own first name, but not to other first names. Utility of this procedure could include assessment of cognitive processing of nonresponsive populations such as comatose patients, stroke patients, demented patients, autistics, infants, and children.
Article
The P300 event-related potentials in response to self-relevant stimuli has been reported to be different from those to non-target stimuli under a passive attention condition. In the present study the P300 in response to the subject's own face was examined. Twelve right-handed volunteers served as subjects. In two separate conditions, deviant (subject's own face and red square; 30%), non-target (two unfamiliar faces; 30% each), and target (famous face; 10%) stimuli were randomly presented on a computer screen. P300 amplitudes in response to the red square were larger than those to the unfamiliar faces, but were significantly lower than those to the subject's own face. The subject's own face in normal population may have an intense relevance to the subjects which has an additional effect over the simple orienting response.
Article
A review of the literature that examines event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and novelty processing reveals that the orienting response engendered by deviant or unexpected events consists of a characteristic ERP pattern, comprised sequentially of the mismatch negativity (MMN) and the novelty P3 or P3a. A wide variety of evidence suggests that the MMN reflects the detection of deviant events, whereas the P3a is associated more with the evaluation of those events for subsequent behavioral action. On the scalp, the novelty P3a is comprised of at least two aspects, one frontal the other posterior, each with different cognitive (and presumably neurologic) correlates. Intracranial ERP investigations and studies of patients with localized brain lesions (and, to some extent, fMRI data) converge with the scalp-recorded data in suggesting a widespread neural network, the different aspects of which respond differentially to stimulus and task characteristics.
Article
This study investigated whether neural mechanisms of self-face recognition are modulated by attention by recording event-related brain potentials associated with self-face recognition. Participants identified head orientations of self-faces and familiar or unfamiliar other faces presented briefly at the center of the visual field. Event-related brain potentials to self-faces and other faces were recorded when self-faces and familiar or unfamiliar other faces were either task relevant (attended) or irrelevant (unattended) in separate blocks of trials. We found that early face-specific event-related brain potential components such as the N170 and vertex positive potential did not differ between self-faces and other faces. Relative to familiar faces, however, self-faces induced an increased positivity over the frontocentral area at 220-700 ms. The increased positivity to self-faces relative to familiar faces between 500 and 700 ms was reduced in the attended relative to the unattended conditions, which arose from the fact that the amplitude to familiar faces during this time window was increased in the attended relative to the unattended conditions, whereas the event-related brain potential amplitude to self-faces was not influenced by attention. The event-related brain potential results suggest an automatic process of self-face recognition in human brains that occurs after face structure encoding and is independent of task relevance.
Article
Hearing one's own first name automatically elicits a robust electrophysiological response, even in conditions of reduced consciousness like sleep. In a search for objective clues to superior cognitive functions in comatose patients, we looked for an optimal auditory stimulation paradigm mobilizing a large population of neurons. Our hypothesis was that wider ERPs would be obtained in response to the subject's own name (SON) when a familiar person uttered it. In 15 healthy awake volunteers, we tested a passive oddball paradigm with three different novels presented with the same probability (P = 0.02): SON uttered by a familiar voice (FV) or by an unknown voice (NFV) and a non-vocal stimulus (NV) which preserved most of the physical characteristics of SON FV. ERP (32 electrodes) and scalp current density (SCD) maps were analyzed. SON appeared to generate more robust responses related to involuntary attention switching (MMN/N2b, novelty P3) than NV. When uttered by a familiar person, the SON elicited larger response amplitudes in the late phase of novelty P3 (after 300 ms). Most important differences were found in the late slow waves where two components could be temporally and spatially dissociated. A larger parietal component for FV than for NFV suggested deeper high-level processing, even if the subjects were not required to explicitly differentiate or recognize the voices. This passive protocol could therefore provide a valuable tool for clinicians to test residual superior cognitive functions in uncooperative patients.
Article
Electrophysiological studies using event-related potentials have demonstrated that face stimuli elicit a greater negative brain potential in right posterior recording sites 170 msec after stimulus onset (N170) relative to nonface stimuli. Results from repetition priming paradigms have shown that repeated exposures of familiar faces elicit a larger negative brainwave (N250r) at inferior temporal sites compared to repetitions of unfamiliar faces. However, less is known about the time course and learning conditions under which the N250 face representation is acquired. In the familiarization phase of the Joe/no Joe task, subjects studied a target "Joe" face ("Jane" for female subjects) and, during the course of the experiment, identified a series of sequentially presented faces as either Joe or not Joe. The critical stimulus conditions included the subject's own face, a same-sex Joe ( Jane) face and a same-sex "other" face. The main finding was that the subject's own face produced a focal negative deflection (N250) in posterior channels relative to nontarget faces. The task-relevant Joe target face was not differentiated from other nontarget faces in the first half of the experiment. However, in the second half, the Joe face produced an N250 response that was similar in magnitude to the own face. These findings suggest that the N250 indexes two types of face memories: a preexperimentally familiar face representation (i.e., the "own face" and a newly acquired face representation (i.e., the Joe/Jane face) that was formed during the course of the experiment.
Article
The empirical and theoretical development of the P300 event-related brain potential (ERP) is reviewed by considering factors that contribute to its amplitude, latency, and general characteristics. The neuropsychological origins of the P3a and P3b subcomponents are detailed, and how target/standard discrimination difficulty modulates scalp topography is discussed. The neural loci of P3a and P3b generation are outlined, and a cognitive model is proffered: P3a originates from stimulus-driven frontal attention mechanisms during task processing, whereas P3b originates from temporal-parietal activity associated with attention and appears related to subsequent memory processing. Neurotransmitter actions associating P3a to frontal/dopaminergic and P3b to parietal/norepinephrine pathways are highlighted. Neuroinhibition is suggested as an overarching theoretical mechanism for P300, which is elicited when stimulus detection engages memory operations.