Background: Children with pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) show behavioral abnormalities in gaze and face processing, but recent studies have indicated that normal activation of face-specific brain areas in response to faces is possible in this group. It is not clear whether the brain activity related to gaze processing is also normal in children with PDD. Methods: Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were measured during two spatial attention tasks in which a centrally presented stimulus served as cue for the location of a forthcoming target. In one task faces were used as cues, and in the other arrows. Seventeen children with PDD and 18 age- and IQ-matched control children were tested. Results: Face stimuli elicited the same specific ERP activity in both groups. Also, both children with PDD and controls showed shorter reaction times as well as larger amplitudes and shorter latency times of several ERP peaks to congruently cued targets than to incongruently cued targets in both tasks. However, children with PDD showed abnormally small occipital ERPs in response to both face and arrow stimuli. Conclusion: The results provide evidence for the capability of normal processing of face and gaze change in children with PDD. The smaller occipital activity might be related to more general abnormalities in perception.
Kemner, C., Schuller, A. M., & van Engeland, H. (2006). Electrocortical reflections of face and gaze processing in children with pervasive developmental disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(10), 1063-1072. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01678.x