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Sakina Dharsee Psychology - 260. Gaze Fixation and the Neural Circuitry of Face Processing in Autism. Introduction. Autism: Developmental disorder, unique profile of social and emotional behavior . Symptomatology : Diminished gaze fixation, lack of social or emotional reciprocity.

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Presentation Transcript
slide2

Introduction

  • Autism: Developmental disorder, unique profile of social and emotional behavior.
  • Symptomatology: Diminished gaze fixation, lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
  • Previous research:Fusiformgyrus less activated in autistic patients.
  • Deficit:Which circuits are highly activated compared to normal?
slide3

Hypothesis

  • Fusiformgyrushypoactivation - Less time fixating on eye regions: Cause or consequence?
  • Hyperactivation in amygdala (region responsible for processing threatening, social and emotional cues)
slide4

Experimental Task

Stimulation: Mock-up of MRI scanner.

MRI Scan

Eye movement: Eye-tracking device.

  • Study 1:
  • 14 autistic males (M:15.9, SD: 4.71)
  • 12 normal males (M: 17.1, SD: 2.78)
  • Task: Is the picture emotional or neutral?
  • Half straight, half turned.
  • Study 2:
  • 16 autistic males (M:14.5, SD: 4.60)
  • 16 normal males (M: 14.5, SD: 4.56)
  • Task: Is the picture familiar to you?
  • Ten photographs of family or friends.
slide6

Result

  • Study 1:
  • Autistic group:
  • Longer judgement time for emotional and straight ahead faces.
  • Significantly less time fixating on eyes.
  • More activation in left amygdala.
  • Control group:
  • More activation in bilateral fusiformgyrus.

a – Right fusiformgyrus

b – Left fusiformgyrus

slide7

Study 2:

  • Control group:
  • More activation in bilateral fusiformgyrus.
  • Autistic group:
  • Significantly less time fixating on eyes.
  • More activation in right amygdala.
  • No differences in judgement time.

Average duration of fixation on mouth, eye region and face in general.

slide8

Study 1: g – Left amygdala

Study 2: e – Right amygdala

slide9

Discussion

  • Individuals with autism scan and process faces differently.
  • Deficits in processing emotional cues and in processing socially engaging faces.
  • Greater amygdala activation in autistic group for both studies.
  • Eye fixation creates a negative over-arousal mediated by the amygdala – diminished gaze fixation reduces this.
slide10

Negative over-arousal

Increased sensitivity to social stimuli

Diminished gaze fixation

Hypoactivationof fusiformgyrus

slide11

Strengths and Limitations

Limitations:

  • Strengths:
  • Experimental control.
  • Attempt to reduce performance anxiety.
  • Stimulation session.
  • Based solely on data obtained from males.
  • Inconsistency.
  • Future directions:
  • Lateralization of amygdala – left for emotion, right for familiarity? (Baas et al., 2004)
  • Treatment research: Can autistic patients be trained to scan and process faces normally, resulting in normal levels of fusiformgyrus activation?
slide12

Personal Opinion

  • Congruent with previous findings, and makes a new discovery.
  • Research can contribute towards the treatment and counselling of autistic children.
  • Leads into further research on the disorder – what are the circuits associated with other symptoms?

Thank You!

Any questions?