Cortical patterns of category-Selective activation for faces, places and objects in adults with autism

Kate Humphreys, Uri Hasson, Galia Avidan, Nancy Minshew, Marlene Behrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Autism is associated with widespread atypicalities in perception, cognition and social behavior. A crucial questionconcerns how these atypicalities are reflected in the underlying brain activation. One way to examine possibleperturbations of cortical organization in autism is to analyze the activation of category-selective ventral visual cortex,already clearly delineated in typical populations. We mapped out the neural correlates of face, place and common objectprocessing, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), in a group of high-functioning adults with autism anda typical comparison group, under both controlled and more naturalistic, viewing conditions. There were no consistentgroup differences in place-related regions. Although there were no significant differences in the extent of the objectrelatedregions, there was more variability for these regions in the autism group. The most marked group differences werein face-selective cortex, with individuals with autism evincing reduced activation, not only in fusiform face area but alsoin superior temporal sulcus and occipital face area. Ventral visual cortex appears to be organized differently in highfunctioningadults with autism, at least for face-selective regions, although subtle differences may also exist for othercategories. We propose that cascading developmental effects of low-level differences in neuronal connectivity result in amuch more pronounced effect on later developing cortical systems, such as that for face-processing, than earliermaturing systems (those for objects and places).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-63
Number of pages12
JournalAutism Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • General Neuroscience


  • High-functioning autism
  • Object perception
  • Occipito-temporal cortex
  • Visual system
  • fMRI


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