Investigations of face processing in persons with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) inform upon theories of the development of "normal" face processing, and the story that emerges challenges some models of the nature and origin of cortical face specialization. Individuals with an ASD possess deficits in face processing and a lack of a fusiform face area (FFA). Evidence from studies of ASD can be conceptualized best using an expertise framework of face processing rather than models that postulate a face module in the fusiform gyrus. Because persons with an ASD have reduced social interest, they may fail to develop cortical face specialization. Face specialization may develop in normal individuals because they are socially motivated to regard the face, and such motivation promotes expertise for faces. The amygdala is likely the key node in the system that marks objects as emotionally salient and could be crucial to the development of cortical face specialization.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.