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Published December 2015 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Abnormal Neural Activation to Faces in the Parents of Children with Autism


Parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show subtle deficits in aspects of social behavior and face processing, which resemble those seen in ASD, referred to as the "Broad Autism Phenotype " (BAP). While abnormal activation in ASD has been reported in several brain structures linked to social cognition, little is known regarding patterns in the BAP. We compared autism parents with control parents with no family history of ASD using 2 well-validated face-processing tasks. Results indicated increased activation in the autism parents to faces in the amygdala (AMY) and the fusiform gyrus (FG), 2 core face-processing regions. Exploratory analyses revealed hyper-activation of lateral occipital cortex (LOC) bilaterally and right FG in autism parents with aloof personality ("BAP+") and autism parents without the aloof personality ("BAP−"). Findings suggest that abnormalities of the AMY and FG are related to underlying genetic liability for ASD, whereas abnormalities in the LOC and right FG are more specific to behavioral features of the BAP. Results extend our knowledge of neural circuitry underlying abnormal face processing beyond those previously reported in ASD to individuals with shared genetic liability for autism and a subset of genetically related individuals with the BAP.

Additional Information

© The Author 2014. Cerebral Cortex Advance Access published July 23, 2014. First published online: July 23, 2014. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (MH077843 and P30HD0003110) to JP. The authors wish to thank Ashley Stevens, Elisabeth Tyroler, Deanna Tracy, Meghan Vanasek, and Scott Wallace for recruitment of all subjects, Michael Casp, Zoe Englander, and Mary Agnes McMahon for assistance in data collection, and all the families who participated in this study.

Additional details

September 27, 2023
September 27, 2023