Neural correlates of face and object recognition in young children with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, and typical development

Child Dev. May-Jun 2002;73(3):700-17. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00433.


This study utilized electroencephalographic recordings to examine whether young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have impaired face recognition ability. High-density brain event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to photos of the child's mother's face versus an unfamiliar female face and photos of a favorite versus an unfamiliar toy from children with ASD, children with typical development, and children with developmental delay, all 3 to 4 years of age (N = 118). Typically developing children showed ERP amplitude differences in two components, P400 and Nc, to a familiar versus an unfamiliar face, and to a familiar versus an unfamiliar object. In contrast, children with ASD failed to show differences in ERPs to a familiar versus an unfamiliar face, but they did show P400 and Nc amplitude differences to a familiar versus an unfamiliar object. Developmentally delayed children showed significant ERP amplitude differences for the positive slow wave for both faces and objects. These data suggest that autism is associated with face recognition impairment that is manifest early in life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Recognition, Psychology*