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Atypical Asymmetry for Processing Human and Robot Faces in Autism Revealed by fNIRS
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Deficits in the visual processing of faces in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) individuals may be due to atypical brain organization and function. Studies assessing asymmetric brain function in ASD individuals have suggested that facial processing, which is known to be lateralized in neurotypical (NT) individuals, may be less lateralized in ASD. Here we used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to first test this theory by comparing patterns of lateralized brain activity in homologous temporal-occipital facial processing regions during observation of faces in an ASD group and an NT group. As expected, the ASD participants showed reduced right hemisphere asymmetry for human faces, compared to the NT participants. Based on recent behavioral reports suggesting that robots can facilitate increased verbal interaction over human counterparts in ASD, we also measured responses to faces of robots to determine if these patterns of activation were lateralized in each group. In this exploratory test, both groups showed similar asymmetry patterns for the robot faces. Our findings confirm existing literature suggesting reduced asymmetry for human faces in ASD and provide a preliminary foundation for future testing of how the use of categorically different social stimuli in the clinical setting may be beneficial in this population.
|Journal Title||PLoS ONE|
|Rights||Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International|