In contrast to previous reports, for those with autism or Aspergers syndrome, recognizing facial expressions is separate from identifying familiar faces, according to a study published in the November 22, 2005, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Those who had an impaired ability to process facial identity were no different than those with normal facial identity ability, when it came to processing facial expression.
Led by researchers in the U.S. and Canada, the study examined 26 adults diagnosed with either autism, Aspergers syndrome, social-emotional processing disorder, or both Aspergers and social-emotional processing disorder. The shared trait of these disorders is social dysfunction. The individuals took a variety of tests to measure famous face recognition, recognition of non-facial emotional cues (from voices or bodies), recognition of basic emotions (happy, sad, angry, fearful), and recognition of a complex mental state (reflective, aghast, irritated, impatient) presented by a pair of eyes.
Ten of the participants scored well within the normal range for famous face recognition, and the other 16 scored at an impaired level.
Marilee Tuite | EurekAlert!
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