Self-face recognition in children with autism spectrum disorders: A near-infrared spectroscopy study

Yosuke Kita, Atsuko Gunji, Yuki Inoue, Takaaki Goto, Kotoe Sakihara, Makiko Kaga, Masumi Inagaki, Toru Hosokawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


It is assumed that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have specificities for self-face recognition, which is known to be a basic cognitive ability for social development. In the present study, we investigated neurological substrates and potentially influential factors for self-face recognition of ASD patients using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). The subjects were 11 healthy adult men, 13 normally developing boys, and 10 boys with ASD. Their hemodynamic activities in the frontal area and their scanning strategies (eye-movement) were examined during self-face recognition. Other factors such as ASD severities and self-consciousness were also evaluated by parents and patients, respectively. Oxygenated hemoglobin levels were higher in the regions corresponding to the right inferior frontal gyrus than in those corresponding to the left inferior frontal gyrus. In two groups of children these activities reflected ASD severities, such that the more serious ASD characteristics corresponded with lower activity levels. Moreover, higher levels of public self-consciousness intensified the activities, which were not influenced by the scanning strategies. These findings suggest that dysfunction in the right inferior frontal gyrus areas responsible for self-face recognition is one of the crucial neural substrates underlying ASD characteristics, which could potentially be used to evaluate psychological aspects such as public self-consciousness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-503
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jun
Externally publishedYes


  • ASD severity
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Eye-movement
  • Inferior frontal gyrus
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • Self-consciousness
  • Self-face recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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