Visual scan paths and recognition of facial identity in autism spectrum disorder and typical development

C. Ellie Wilson, Romina Palermo, Jon Brock

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)
    14 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Background: Previous research suggests that many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have impaired facial identity recognition, and also exhibit abnormal visual scanning of faces. Here, two hypotheses accounting for an association between these observations were tested: i) better facial identity recognition is associated with increased gaze time on the Eye region; ii) better facial identity recognition is associated with increased eye-movements around the face. Methodology and Principal Findings: Eye-movements of 11 children with ASD and 11 age-matched typically developing (TD) controls were recorded whilst they viewed a series of faces, and then completed a two alternative forced-choice recognition memory test for the faces. Scores on the memory task were standardized according to age. In both groups, there was no evidence of an association between the proportion of time spent looking at the Eye region of faces and age-standardized recognition performance, thus the first hypothesis was rejected. However, the 'Dynamic Scanning Index' - which was incremented each time the participant saccaded into and out of one of the core-feature interest areas - was strongly associated with age-standardized face recognition scores in both groups, even after controlling for various other potential predictors of performance. Conclusions and Significance: In support of the second hypothesis, results suggested that increased saccading between core-features was associated with more accurate face recognition ability, both in typical development and ASD. Causal directions of this relationship remain undetermined.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere37681
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume7
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) [2012]. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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