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Seeing face-like objects: an event-related potential study

Churches, Owena b; Baron-Cohen, Simona; Ring, Howardb

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283305a65

The N170 event-related potential component is larger to faces than to other objects but also varies in amplitude between non-face objects. This study investigated the hypotheses that these differences are related to the perceived face-likeness of the objects. Event-related potentials were recorded from 18 participants who classified objects as ‘face like’ or ‘non-face like’. Images of actual faces were also presented. The N170 was larger (more negative) to objects classified as face like than to those classified as non-face like. These data suggest that the amplitude of the N170 to objects is affected by the face-likeness of the objects.

aDepartment of Psychiatry, Autism Research Centre

bDepartment of Psychiatry, Cambridge Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Correspondence to Owen Churches, Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 8AH, UK

Tel: +44 1223 746 197; fax: +44 1223 746 122; email:

This study was carried out at Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 8AH, UK.

Received 30 June 2009 accepted 1 July 2009

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.