Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 278–293 | Cite as

The Effects of Face Expertise Training on the Behavioral Performance and Brain Activity of Adults with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Susan FajaEmail author
  • Sara Jane Webb
  • Emily Jones
  • Kristen Merkle
  • Dana Kamara
  • Joshua Bavaro
  • Elizabeth Aylward
  • Geraldine Dawson
Original Paper


The effect of expertise training with faces was studied in adults with ASD who showed initial impairment in face recognition. Participants were randomly assigned to a computerized training program involving either faces or houses. Pre- and post-testing included standardized and experimental measures of behavior and event-related brain potentials (ERPs), as well as interviews after training. After training, all participants met behavioral criteria for expertise with the specific stimuli on which they received training. Scores on standardized measures improved after training for both groups, but only the face training group showed an increased face inversion effect behaviorally and electrophysiological changes to faces in the P100 component. These findings suggest that individuals with ASD can gain expertise in face processing through training.


ASD Face processing Training Intervention ERPs N170 



This project was supported by the NIMH STAART (Dawson/Aylward U54 MH066399), the NICHD Autism Center of Excellence (Webb P50 HD055782), NINDS Postdoctoral Award (Faja T32NS007413), Autism Speaks Postdoctoral Fellowship (Jones), the UW Mary Gates Fellowship (Kamara), Dr. Jessica Greenson and the STAART Diagnostic Core, and the UW Psychophysiology and Behavioral Systems Lab. The project is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies. Some stimuli were from the MacBrain Face Stimulus Set (John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience & Brain Development), Dr. Nancy Kanwiser (houses), and Dr. Martin Eimer (houses). We especially thank the participants and their families. These data were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, London, UK, in May, 2008.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Faja
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sara Jane Webb
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Emily Jones
    • 1
    • 4
  • Kristen Merkle
    • 1
    • 5
  • Dana Kamara
    • 2
    • 4
  • Joshua Bavaro
    • 2
  • Elizabeth Aylward
    • 1
    • 4
    • 6
  • Geraldine Dawson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.The Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Seattle Children’s Hospital Research InstituteSeattleUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Imaging ScienceVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of RadiologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  7. 7.Autism SpeaksNew YorkUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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