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Making All Faces Familiar for Those With Autism

Training may help people with disorder develop facial recognition skills

THURSDAY, Feb. 12, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- University of Washington researchers have discovered that the brains of people with autism function differently than the brains of normal people when they see pictures of unfamiliar people.

The study of 11 adolescents and adults with autism and 10 age-matched controls also found that when people with autism see a picture of a familiar face, their brain activity is similar to that of other people.

The researchers say these findings indicate that in people with autism, a brain region called the fusiform gyrus that's associated with face processing has the potential to function normally, but may need special training to do so.

The study was presented Feb. 12 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Seattle.

"It appears that our brains have evolved to have special processors to recognize that something is a face because faces are important in survival, in understanding emotions and in forming special relationships with others," researcher and psychology professor Geraldine Dawson, director of the UW's Autism Center, says in a prepared statement.

"We have special and distinct regions for perceiving faces and others for perceiving objects. These regions are located in different parts of the temporal lobe. Our brain imaging studies are finding that people with autism often use object processing areas when they are looking at faces," Dawson says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about autism.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Feb. 12, 2004
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