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Giorgia Picci, Marlene Behrmann, Suzanne Scherf; Greeble Training in Adolescents Increases Neural Activation in the FFA. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):562. https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.562.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
People with autism have difficulties perceiving faces, including recognizing individual faces. Also, neural activation in the right fusiform gyrus in response to faces is reportedly hypoactive. One mechanistic hypothesis for these deficits is that people with autism have difficulty engaging holistic processing that is supported by the right fusiform face area (FFA). The central goal of this study was to determine whether individuals with autism can learn to recognize perceptually homogeneous novel objects (Greebles) using holistic processing and whether they engage the right FFA when so doing. Adolescents with autism were trained to recognize Greebles in a home-based computer-training paradigm for 2 months. Holistic processing of Greebles and neural activation during Greeble and face recognition was measured prior to and following the training using fMRI. Responses were compared to age- and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) adolescents who did not undergo the training and were only assessed at one time point. The adolescents with autism learned to recognize the Greebles using holistic processing. Furthermore, during Greeble recognition, they exhibited increased activation following the training in the right FFA, but not in the LOC, an object-selective cortical region. The Greeble-elicited FFA activation following the training was higher than that exhibited by the TD adolescents, who did not exhibit holistic processing of Greebles. There were no neural changes in these same regions in response to human faces in the autism group. These findings reveal that adolescents with autism can engage holistic processing during object recognition and that the right FFA may be recruited to do so. The implication is that the difficulty with face processing is not related to general atypicalities in visual processing or the functioning of the fusiform gyrus, but are, instead, related to more specific differences in visual processing and neural responsiveness to faces.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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