A growing body of evidence has indicated that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit abnormal reactions to sensory stimuli and impaired face processing. Although behavioral studies have reported that individual differences in sensory processing patterns are correlated with performance in face processing tasks, the neural substrates underlying the association between sensory processing patterns and face processing remain unknown. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the present study examined the relationships between sensory processing patterns assessed with the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) and brain activity during a one-back task with two types of stimuli (face or house pictures). We enrolled 18 Japanese adults with ASD and 19 age- and IQ-matched controls. Sensation Avoiding scores, which were assessed using the AASP, were positively correlated with right fusiform activity during the presentation of pictures of faces in the ASD group, but not in the control group. This suggests that abnormal sensory processing patterns in ASD are associated with abnormal face-related brain activity, possibly resulting in impaired face processing. LAY SUMMARY: Sensory abnormalities are one of the most common symptoms in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study shows that individuals with ASD who react abnormally to sensory stimuli also exhibit atypical brain activity when recognizing faces. Abnormal sensory processing may partly explain the difficulty that people diagnosed with ASD have in identifying others’ faces.
© 2020 The Authors. Autism Research published by International Society for Autism Research published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.