Facial motion is a special type of biological motion that transmits cues for socio-emotional communication and enables the discrimination of properties such as gender and identity. We used animated average faces to examine the ability of adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to perceive facial motion. Participants completed increasingly difficult tasks involving the discrimination of (1) sequences of facial motion, (2) the identity of individuals based on their facial motion and (3) the gender of individuals. Stimuli were presented in both upright and upside-down orientations to test for the difference in inversion effects often found when comparing ASD with controls in face perception. The ASD group's performance was impaired relative to the control group in all three tasks and unlike the control group, the individuals with ASD failed to show an inversion effect. These results point to a deficit in facial biological motion processing in people with autism, which we suggest is linked to deficits in lower level motion processing we have previously reported.
O'Brien, J., Spencer, J., Girges, C., Johnston, A. & Hill, H. (2014). Impaired perception of facial motion in autism spectrum disorder. PLoS One, 9 (7), 1-6.