An unusual attraction to the eyes in Williams-Beuren syndrome: a manipulation of facial affect while measuring face scanpaths

Melanie A. Porter, Tracey A. Shaw, Pamela J. Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study aimed to investigate face scanpaths and emotion recognition in Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) and whether: (1) the eyes capture the attention of WBS individuals faster than typically developing mental age-matched controls; (2) WBS patients spend abnormally prolonged periods of time viewing the eye region; and (3) emotion recognition skills or eye gaze patterns change depending on the emotional valance of the face. Methods. Visual scanpaths were recorded while 16 WBS patients and 16 controls passively viewed happy, angry, fearful, and neutral faces. Emotion recognition was subsequently measured. Results. The eyes did not capture the attention of WBS patients faster than controls, but once WBS patients attended to the eyes, they spent significantly more time looking at this region. Unexpectedly, WBS patients showed an impaired ability to recognise angry faces, but face scanpaths were similar across the different facial expressions. Conclusions. Findings suggest that face processing is atypical in WBS and that emotion recognition and eye gaze abnormalities in WBS are likely to be more complex than previously thought. Findings highlight the need to develop remediation programmes to teach WBS patients how to explore all facial features, enhancing their emotion recognition skills and "normalising" their social interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-530
Number of pages26
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

Keywords

  • face processing
  • face gaze
  • eye gaze
  • emotion processing
  • social salience

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