Distinct Face-Processing Strategies in Parents of Autistic Children

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.
Current Biology (Impact Factor: 9.57). 07/2008; 18(14):1090-3. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.06.073
Source: PubMed


In his original description of autism, Kanner [1] noted that the parents of autistic children often exhibited unusual social behavior themselves, consistent with what we now know about the high heritability of autism [2]. We investigated this so-called Broad Autism Phenotype in the parents of children with autism, who themselves did not receive a diagnosis of any psychiatric illness. Building on recent quantifications of social cognition in autism [3], we investigated face processing by using the "bubbles" method [4] to measure how viewers make use of information from specific facial features in order to judge emotions. Parents of autistic children who were assessed as socially aloof (N = 15), a key component of the phenotype [5], showed a remarkable reduction in processing the eye region in faces, together with enhanced processing of the mouth, compared to a control group of parents of neurotypical children (N = 20), as well as to nonaloof parents of autistic children (N = 27, whose pattern of face processing was intermediate). The pattern of face processing seen in the Broad Autism Phenotype showed striking similarities to that previously reported to occur in autism [3] and for the first time provides a window into the endophenotype that may result from a subset of the genes that contribute to social cognition.

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Available from: Michael L Spezio, May 28, 2014
    • "There also appears to be mild deficits in face emotion and face identity processing in this group. Relative to controls, unaffected parents of children with ASD show a decreased tendency to look at the eye region when making categorical judgments of emotion, and those with aloof personalities also show increased reliance on the mouth region in their emotion judgments (Adolphs, Spezio, Parlier, & Piven, 2008). Unaffected parents of children with ASD also tend to be worse than controls in inferring emotion based on the eye region alone (Baron-Cohen & Hammer, 1997;Losh & Piven, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by deficits in social and communication abilities. While unaffected relatives lack severe deficits, milder impairments have been reported in some first-degree relatives. The present study sought to verify whether mild deficits in face perception are evident among the unaffected younger siblings of children with ASD. Children between 6-9 years of age completed a face-recognition task and a passive viewing ERP task with face and house stimuli. Sixteen children were typically developing with no family history of ASD, and 17 were unaffected children with an older sibling with ASD. Findings indicate that, while unaffected siblings are comparable to controls in their face-recognition abilities, unaffected male siblings in particular show relatively enhanced P100 and P100-N170 peak-to-peak amplitude responses to faces and houses. Enhanced ERPs among unaffected male siblings is discussed in relation to potential differences in neural network recruitment during visual and face processing.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Child Neuropsychology
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    • "Schmidt with colleagues [51] showed impairments in phonological processing in parents of children with low functioning autism. In their study on emotion recognition, Adolphs with colleagues [49] found difficulties in parents identified as " socially aloof " , while " nonaloof " parents were similar to controls. Folstein et al. [36] found that only those parents of individuals with autism who showed cognitive deficits associated with language in childhood performed worse than parents of individuals with Down syn‐ drome in reading and writing tasks. "

    Full-text · Chapter · Apr 2015
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    • "We found a reduced ability to recognize unfamiliar faces at 3 years in the high-risk group that was not driven only by those children who received an ASD diagnosis nor by those manifesting subclinical ASD-like social and communicative characteristics . This adds to the previous studies that found that first-degree relatives of individuals with ASD can exhibit face-processing difficulties (Adolphs et al., 2008; Dalton et al., 2007; Dawson et al., 2005; Merin et al., 2006) but that did not test the relationship with the ASD phenotype . We found that general intelligence was a marginally Table 3 Partial correlations for the relationship between face orienting at 7 months and performance on the face recognition task at 3 years controlling for MSEL ELC. "
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    ABSTRACT: Face recognition difficulties are frequently documented in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It has been hypothesized that these difficulties result from a reduced interest in faces early in life, leading to decreased cortical specialization and atypical development of the neural circuitry for face processing. However, a recent study by our lab demonstrated that infants at increased familial risk for ASD, irrespective of their diagnostic status at 3 years, exhibit a clear orienting response to faces. The present study was conducted as a follow-up on the same cohort to investigate how measures of early engagement with faces relate to face-processing abilities later in life. We also investigated whether face recognition difficulties are specifically related to an ASD diagnosis, or whether they are present at a higher rate in all those at familial risk. At 3 years we found a reduced ability to recognize unfamiliar faces in the high-risk group that was not specific to those children who received an ASD diagnosis, consistent with face recognition difficulties being an endophenotype of the disorder. Furthermore, we found that longer looking at faces at 7 months was associated with poorer performance on the face recognition task at 3 years in the high-risk group. These findings suggest that longer looking at faces in infants at risk for ASD might reflect early face-processing difficulties and predicts difficulties with recognizing faces later in life.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Developmental Science
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