A new study finds that adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often struggle when they need to use facial clues to help perform a task.
Investigators from Brunel University London, found that while adults with ASD are able to recognize static faces, they are challenged when a task requires them to discriminate between sequences of facial motion or to use facial motion as a cue to identity.
This may result in difficulty recognizing social cues, unfamiliar people or even someone’s gender.
The research supports previous evidence to suggest that impairments in perceiving biological motion more generally may underlie difficulties in social interaction. Some have suggested that poor attention skills are at the root of the problem.
“Existing studies have suggested that biological motion deficits are accountable for impairment in social cognition, but there has been little investigation of facial motion when discussing adults with ASD,” said psychologist Dr. Justin O’Brien, one of the authors of the study.
“Our data indicates that people with ASD are unable to pick up on changing visual information that informs their judgment of someone’s identity or emotional state, and that this could contribute to difficulties in social interaction.”
Researchers followed 14 participants, each high-functioning individuals with ASD, who were asked to watch motion captured from actors and applied to a three-dimensional face.
The moving images were then used to investigate whether the participants could perceive and discriminate facial motion.
Researchers hope the findings will improve ther understanding of how and why adults with ASD have social and communication issues.
Source: Brunel University/EurekAlert