fMRI activation of the fusiform gyrus and amygdala to cartoon characters but not to faces in a boy with autism.

Grelotti DJ, Klin AJ, Gauthier I, Skudlarski P, Cohen DJ, Gore JC, Volkmar FR, Schultz RT
Neuropsychologia. 2005 43 (3): 373-85

PMID: 15707614 · DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.06.015

Abnormal hypoactivation in the amygdala and fusiform gyrus, brain areas that participate in face processing and social cognition, has consistently been demonstrated in persons with autism. We investigated activity in these areas in a boy with autism, DD, who had a special interest in "Digimon" cartoon characters. DD individuates Digimon faster than familiar faces and objects, but he individuates familiar faces no faster than objects. In contrast, a typically developing boy with an interest in "Pokemon" cartoon characters is equally fast at individuating faces and Pokemon and faster at individuating faces and Pokemon than objects and Digimon. In addition, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we show that DD activates his amygdala and fusiform gyrus for perceptual discriminations involving Digimon but not for those involving familiar or unfamiliar faces. This pattern of activation is not seen in the typically developing control with an interest in Pokemon or in a second comparison case who has autism but no interest in Digimon. These results have important implications for our understanding of autism, cortical face specialization, and the possible role of the amygdala in the development of perceptual expertise.

MeSH Terms (11)

Amygdala Autistic Disorder Cartoons as Topic Child Face Humans Magnetic Resonance Imaging Male Recognition (Psychology) Social Behavior Visual Perception

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