Original article| Volume 31, ISSUE 2, P139-147, February 2009

Event-related potentials of self-face recognition in children with pervasive developmental disorders

  • Atsuko Gunji
    Corresponding author. Tel.: +81 42 341 2712; fax: +81 42 346 2158.
    Department of Developmental Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawa-Higashi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8553, Japan
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  • Masumi Inagaki
    Department of Developmental Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawa-Higashi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8553, Japan
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  • Yuki Inoue
    Department of Developmental Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawa-Higashi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8553, Japan

    Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
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  • Yasuyuki Takeshima
    Department of Integrative Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki 444-8585, Japan
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  • Makiko Kaga
    Department of Developmental Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawa-Higashi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8553, Japan
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Published:September 01, 2008DOI:


      Patients with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) often have difficulty reading facial expressions and deciphering their implied meaning. We focused on semantic encoding related to face cognition to investigate event-related potentials (ERPs) to the subject’s own face and familiar faces in children with and without PDD. Eight children with PDD (seven boys and one girl; aged 10.8 ± 2.9 years; one left-handed) and nine age-matched typically developing children (four boys and five girls; aged 11.3 ± 2.3 years; one left-handed) participated in this study. The stimuli consisted of three face images (self, familiar, and unfamiliar faces), one scrambled face image, and one object image (e.g., cup) with gray scale. We confirmed three major components: N170 and early posterior negativity (EPN) in the occipito-temporal regions (T5 and T6) and P300 in the parietal region (Pz). An enhanced N170 was observed as a face-specific response in all subjects. However, semantic encoding of each face might be unrelated to N170 because the amplitude and latency were not significantly different among the face conditions. On the other hand, an additional component after N170, EPN which was calculated in each subtracted waveform (self vs. familiar and familiar vs. unfamiliar), indicated self-awareness and familiarity with respect to face cognition in the control adults and children. Furthermore, the P300 amplitude in the control adults was significantly greater in the self-face condition than in the familiar-face condition. However, no significant differences in the EPN and P300 components were observed among the self-, familiar-, and unfamiliar-face conditions in the PDD children. The results suggest a deficit of semantic encoding of faces in children with PDD, which may be implicated in their delay in social communication.


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