The neurophysiology of face processing has been studied extensively in the context of social impairments associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the existing studies have concentrated mainly on univariate analyses of responses to upright faces, and, less frequently, inverted faces. The small number of existing studies on neurophysiological responses to inverted face in ASD have used univariate approaches, with divergent results. Here, we used a data-driven, classification-based, multivariate machine learning decoding approach to investigate the temporal and spatial properties of the neurophysiological evoked response for upright and inverted faces, relative to the neurophysiological evoked response for houses, a neutral stimulus. 21 (2 females) ASD and 29 (4 females) TD participants ages 7 to 19 took part in this study. Group level classification accuracies were obtained for each condition, using first the temporal domain of the evoked responses, and then the spatial distribution of the evoked responses on the cortical surface, each separately. We found that classification of responses to inverted neutral faces vs. houses was less accurate in ASD compared to TD, in both the temporal and spatial domains. In contrast, there were no group differences in the classification of evoked responses to upright neutral faces relative to houses. Using the classification in the temporal domain, lower decoding accuracies in ASD were found around 120 ms and 170 ms, corresponding the known components of the evoked responses to faces. Using the classification in the spatial domain, lower decoding accuracies in ASD were found in the right superior marginal gyrus (SMG), intra-parietal sulcus (IPS) and posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), but not in core face processing areas. Importantly, individual classification accuracies from both the temporal and spatial classifiers correlated with ASD severity, confirming the relevance of the results to the ASD phenotype.
- Inverted faces
- Machine learning