Face perception in women with Turner syndrome and its underlying factors

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Turner syndrome (TS) is a chromosomal condition that affects development in females. It is characterized by short stature, ovarian failure and other congenital malformations, due to a partial or complete absence of the sex chromosome. Women with TS frequently suffer from various physical and hormonal dysfunctions, along with impairments in visual-spatial processing and social cognition difficulties. Previous research has also shown difficulties in face and emotion perception. In the current study we examined two questions: First, whether women with TS, that are impaired in face perception, also suffer from deficits in face-specific processes. The second question was whether these face impairments in TS are related to visual-spatial perceptual dysfunctions exhibited by TS individuals, or to impaired social cognition skills. Twenty-six women with TS and 26 control participants were tested on various cognitive and psychological tests to assess visual-spatial perception, face and facial expression perception, and social cognition skills. Results show that women with TS were less accurate in face perception and facial expression processing, yet they exhibited normal face-specific processes (configural and holistic processing). They also showed difficulties in spatial perception and social cognition capacities. Additional analyses revealed that their face perception impairments were related to their deficits in visual-spatial processing. Thus, our results do not support the claim that the impairments in face processing observed in TS are related to difficulties in social cognition. Rather, our data point to the possibility that face perception difficulties in TS stem from visual-spatial impairments and may not be specific to faces.

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