Electrophysiological Studies of Social Perception

Introduction

This lecture reviews face perception in social development and its relevance to understanding social perception in autism. Based on research findings from the field of brain electrophysiology, differences in salience and proficiency in processing social versus non-social information are discussed.

Featured Reading

The featured reading for the Electrophysiological Studies of Social Perception lecture comes from:

Dawson, G., Webb, S. & McPartland, J. (2005). Understanding the nature of face processing impairment in autism: Insights from behavioral and electrophysiological studies. Developmental Neuropsychology, 27, 403-424.

This manuscript reviews electrophysiological studies of face perception in autism and proposes a developmental model describing the relationship between early deficits in social motivation and face processing problems observed later in life.

Download the paper at the University of Washington's Autism Center website.

Reading List

Below are selected readings from the Electrophysiological Studies of Social Perception class meeting as well as a short annotation from Dr. McPartland on the reading material and a link to find the reading online or to purchase the book online.

Dawson, G., Carver, L., Meltzoff, A., Panagiotides, H. & McPartland, J. (2002). Neural correlates of face recognition in young children with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, and typical development. Child Development, 73, 700-717.

Electrophysiological brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar faces and toys were compared among groups of children with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, and typical development. Typically developing children and those with developmental delays displayed differential brain responses to familiar versus novel faces and objects, while children with autism displayed sensitivity to novel stimuli for objects but not faces.

Download the paper at the University of Washington's Autism Center website.

McPartland, J., Dawson, G., Webb, S., Panagiotides, H. & Carver, L. (2004). Event-related brain potentials reveal anomalies in temporal processing of faces in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 45, 1235-1245.

High-functioning adults and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder were presented with upright and inverted pictures of faces while brain activity was recorded using high-density electroencephalogram. Compared to typically developing counterparts, individuals with autism spectrum disorder displayed slowed processing speed for faces and insensitivity to inversion. Individuals with autism were impaired on a behavioral test of face recognition, and their performance was correlated with processing speed for faces.

Download the paper at the University of Washington's Autism Center website.

Dawson, G., Webb, S., Carver, L., Panagiotides, H. & McPartland, J. (2004). Young children with autism show atypical brain responses to fearful versus neutral facial expressions of emotion. Developmental Science, 7, 340-359.

Event-related potentials were used to study brain response to fearful and neutral faces in 3-4 year-old children with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing children. Enhanced brain response was elicited by fearful faces in typically developing children but not children with autism spectrum disorder. Among children with autism spectrum disorder, faster brain response was associated with better behavioral performance on measures of social attention.

Download the paper at the University of Washington's Autism Center website.

Dawson, G., Webb, S. & McPartland, J. (2005). Understanding the nature of face processing impairment in autism: Insights from behavioral and electrophysiological studies. Developmental Neuropsychology, 27, 403-424.

This manuscript reviews electrophysiological studies of face perception in autism and proposes a developmental model describing the relationship between early deficits in social motivation and face processing problems observed later in life.

Download the paper at the University of Washington's Autism Center website.

Chapter 2, What Causes Autism? from "A Practical Guide to Autism".

Volkmar, Fred; Wiesner, Lisa. "A Practical Guide to Autism". John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey, 2009.

Find this book online at the Publisher's website.

Media and Other Resources

Loading the player...

EEG Studies of Social Perception, Dr. James McPartland

In this lecture, Dr. James McPartland reviews face perception in social development and its relevance to understanding social perception in autism. Based on research findings from the field of brain electrophysiology, differences in salience and proficiency in processing social versus non-social information are discussed.

Audio: Electrophysiological Studies of Social Perception, Dr. James McPartland

External Resources

New Developments in Autism Spectrum Disorders- University of California Television
Eric Hollander, M.D., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine discusses the underlying neurobiology of repetitive behavior and social deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). He also discusses new treatments for repetitive and disruptive behavior and social and neurocognitive deficits.

Toddler brain difference linked to autism- CNN
Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that the area of the brain known as the amygdala is on average 13% larger in young children with autism, compared with a control group of children without autism. The amygdala is responsible for emotional processing.

Psychosis and autism as diametrical disorders of the social brain- Bernard Crespi and Christopher Badcock
Bernard Crespi, Ph.D., and Christopher Badcock, Ph.D., present evidence that the phenotypic traits exhibited in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are diametrically opposite of those exhibited in psychoses, especially schizophrenia. These traits include aspects of social cognition, local vs. global processing, language, and behavior.

Faculty and Guest Bios

Bio Profile

James C McPartland, PhD

Associate Professor in the Child Study Center and of Psychology

Associate Director, Developmental Electrophysiology Lab

Director of Undergraduate Studies, Yale Child Study Center

Director, Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic

Education

PhD, University of Washington, 2005

BA, Harvard University, 1996

Research Interests

Asperger Syndrome; Autistic Disorder; Child Development; Child Development Disorders, Pervasive; Developmental Disabilities; Event-Related Potentials, P300; Evoked Potentials; Psychology, Child; Psychophysiology; Social Perception

Clinical Interests

Autistic Disorder; Developmental Disabilities

James C. McPartland, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale Child Study Center. He is a licensed child psychologist and Director of the Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic. He is Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Child Study Center and teaches an undergraduate seminar on autism spectrum disorder. Dr. McPartland’s program of research investigates the brain bases of neurodevelopmental disabilities to develop biologically-based tools for detection...

View Full Profile