Face recognition in patients with autism spectrum disorders

Yosuke Kita, Masumi Inagaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study aimed to review previous research conducted on face recognition in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Face recognition is a key question in the ASD research field because it can provide clues for elucidating the neural substrates responsible for the social impairment of these patients. Historically, behavioral studies have reported low performance and/or unique strategies of face recognition among ASD patients. However, the performance and strategy of ASD patients is comparable to those of the control group, depending on the experimental situation or developmental stage, suggesting that face recognition of ASD patients is not entirely impaired. Recent brain function studies, including event-related potential and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, have investigated the cognitive process of face recognition in ASD patients, and revealed impaired function in the brain's neural network comprising the fusiform gyrus and amygdala. This impaired function is potentially involved in the diminished preference for faces, and in the atypical development of face recognition, eliciting symptoms of unstable behavioral characteristics in these patients. Additionally, face recognition in ASD patients is examined from a different perspective, namely self-face recognition, and facial emotion recognition. While the former topic is intimately linked to basic social abilities such as self-other discrimination, the latter is closely associated with mentalizing. Further research on face recognition in ASD patients should investigate the connection between behavioral and neurological specifics in these patients, by considering developmental changes and the spectrum clinical condition of ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-830
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Nerve
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Face recognition
  • Facial emotion recognition
  • Self-face recognition
  • Social impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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