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Published in Volume: 14 Issue 5: May 19, 2011
Jin-bo He, Ph.D.,1 Chia-ju Liu, Ph.D.,2 Yong-yu Guo, Ph.D.,1 and Lun Zhao, Ph.D.3,4
1School of Psychology, Hua Zhong Normal University and Hubei Human Development and Mental Health Key Laboratory, Wuhan City, China.
2Graduate Institute of Science Education and Neurocognition Laboratory, National Kaohsiung Normal University, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.
3Institute of Public Opinion, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China.
4Visual Art and Brain Cognition Laboratory, Beijing Shengkun Yanlun Technology Co. Ltd., Beijing, China.
Excessive Internet use is associated with a limited ability to communicate effectively socially, which depends largely on the capacity for perception of the human face. We used a passive visual detection paradigm to compare the early stages of the processing of face-related information in young excessive Internet users (EIUs) and healthy normal subjects by analyzing event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by faces and by nonface stimuli (tables), each presented in the upright and inverted position. The P1 and N170 components of the spectrum of ERPs elicited at occipital–temporal sites by the viewing of faces were larger and peaked sooner than the same ERP components elicited by tables, and inverted faces significantly enhanced and delayed the N170 component. EIUs had a generally smaller P1 component than did normal subjects, whether elicited by faces or by tables, and the N170 effect, or difference in amplitude of the N170 component for faces versus tables, was significantly smaller in the EIUs than in normal subjects. However, the N170 inversion effect, or difference in amplitude of the N170 component elicited by upright versus inverted faces, was similar in the EIUs and normal subjects. These data indicate that EIUs have deficits in the early stage of face-perception processing but may have intact holistic/configural processing of faces. Whether some deeper processes of face perception, such as face memory and face identification, are affected in EIUs needs to be investigated further with more specific procedures.