The emergence of the social brain network: evidence from typical and atypical development.
Several research groups have identified a network of regions of the adult cortex that are activated during social perception and cognition tasks. In this paper we focus on the development of components of this social brain network during early childhood and test aspects of a particular viewpoint on human functional brain development: "interactive specialization." Specifically, we apply new data analysis techniques to a previously published data set of event-related potential (ERP) studies involving 3-, 4-, and 12-month-old infants viewing faces of different orientation and direction of eye gaze. Using source separation and localization methods, several likely generators of scalp recorded ERP are identified, and we describe how they are modulated by stimulus characteristics. We then review the results of a series of experiments concerned with perceiving and acting on eye gaze, before reporting on a new experiment involving young children with autism. Finally, we discuss predictions based on the atypical emergence of the social brain network.