Atypical hemispheric specialization for faces in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder
Nelson, Charles A.
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CitationBrandon Keehn, Vanessa Vogel-Farley, Helen Tager-Flusberg, Charles A Nelson. 2015. "Atypical hemispheric specialization for faces in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder.." Autism Res, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 187 - 198.
Among the many experimental findings that tend to distinguish those with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are face processing deficits, reduced hemispheric specialization, and atypical neurostructural and functional connectivity. To investigate the earliest manifestations of these features, we examined lateralization of event-related gamma-band coherence to faces during the first year of life in infants at high risk for autism (HRA; defined as having an older sibling with ASD) who were compared with low-risk comparison (LRC) infants, defined as having no family history of ASD. Participants included 49 HRA and 46 LRC infants who contributed a total of 127 data sets at 6 and 12 months. Electroencephalography was recorded while infants viewed images of familiar/unfamiliar faces. Event-related gamma-band (30-50 Hz) phase coherence between anterior-posterior electrode pairs for left and right hemispheres was computed. Developmental trajectories for lateralization of intra-hemispheric coherence were significantly different in HRA and LRC infants: by 12 months, HRA infants showed significantly greater leftward lateralization compared with LRC infants who showed rightward lateralization. Preliminary results indicate that infants who later met criteria for ASD were those that showed the greatest leftward lateralization. HRA infants demonstrate an aberrant pattern of leftward lateralization of intra-hemispheric coherence by the end of the first year of life, suggesting that the network specialized for face processing may develop atypically. Further, infants with the greatest leftward asymmetry at 12 months where those that later met criteria for ASD, providing support to the growing body of evidence that atypical hemispheric specialization may be an early neurobiological marker for ASD.