Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Sunday, 22 November 2009

Study looks at facial expressions

Generic three girls
The study is expected to involve 96 children aged five to 16

Researchers in Oxford are beginning a study to find out how children "read" people's faces and expressions.

The project also aims to learn whether there are differences in the way autistic children recognise faces.

Psychologists in the Oxford Autism Research Group are using a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to map brain activity in children.

The reactions of youngsters aged five to 16 will be recorded as they are shown different images.

Dr Jennifer Swettenham, who is leading the study, said: "Faces are really very similar in their basic features, but we are very good at recognising different faces instantly.

"The brain has to be very specialised to be able to do this quickly and accurately.

"We hope this research will help us understand more about autism spectrum disorder and about brain development."

About 30 children are already taking part in the study, which is expected to involve 96 youngsters.

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