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Developmental Change in the ERP Responses to Familiar Faces in Toddlers With Autism Spectrum Disorders Versus Typical Development

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  • This project was supported by the NIH Studies to Advance Autism Research Treatment (Dawson/Aylward U54MH066399), the NIH Autism Center of Excellence (King/Webb P50 HD055782), Autism Speaks Postdoctoral Fellowship (Webb/Jones), and Perry Foundation Fellowship (Murias). The Murdoch Trust provided funding for the electrophysiology system. Additional assistance was provided by the staff and undergraduate students in the UW Psychophysiology and Behavioral Systems lab and the staff of the UW Autism Center Statistics and Database Management core. A special thanks to all of the toddler participants and their families.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sara Jane Webb, Box 357920 CHDD 314C, Seattle, WA 98195. Electronic mail may be sent to sjwebb@u.washington.edu.

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show differences in face processing abilities from early in development. To examine whether these differences reflect an atypical versus delayed developmental trajectory, neural responses to familiar and unfamiliar faces in twenty-four 18- to 47-month-old children with ASD were compared with responses of thirty-two 12- to 30-month-old typically developing children. Results of 2 experiments revealed that neural responses to faces in children with ASD resembled those observed in younger typically developing children, suggesting delayed development. Electrophysiological responses to faces were also related to parent report of adaptive social behaviors for both children with ASD and typical development. Slower development of the face processing system in ASD may be related to reduced self-directed “expected” experience with faces in early development.

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