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Guy, M., Richards, J.E., Tonnsen, B., & Roberts, J.E. (2016). Neural correlates of face processing associated with risk of autism spectrum disorders in infancy. Poster presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, New Orleans, LA, May, 2016.(pdf )

Neural correlates of face processing were examined in two groups of 12-month-old infants at high-risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), infant siblings of children with ASD (ASIBs) and infants with fragile X syndrome (FXS), as well as a group of typically developing (TD) controls. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to familiar and novel face and toy stimuli. Atypical processing of faces has been well documented in ASD1 and research suggests that ASIBs may display different ERP responses from TD infants in the first year of life2,3. Examination of the early emergence of ASD-associated features in FXS may inform early risk factors specific to FXS, as well as broader heterogeneous pathways of ASD emergence. Our expectation that distinct electrophysiological responses would differentiate the high-risk ASD groups from each other and the TD group was supported. The Nc response was significantly greater in TD and FXS groups than ASIBs. Different patterns of Nc responses to familiar and novel stimuli indicated ASIBs were less responsive to the stimuli than other groups and infants with FXS may show immature stimulus processing. Greater amplitude N290 in response to faces than toys across participant groups reflects the developing specialization of face processing despite risk factor. Despite shared risk for ASD, infants with FXS and ASIBs exhibit distinct patterns of attention and face processing, potentially reflecting syndrome-specific pathways to similar behavioral outcomes.