Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 188-199

Eye-Tracking, Autonomic, and Electrophysiological Correlates of Emotional Face Processing in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Jennifer B. WagnerAffiliated withLaboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Children’s Hospital BostonHarvard Medical School Email author 
  • , Suzanna B. HirschAffiliated withLaboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston
  • , Vanessa K. Vogel-FarleyAffiliated withLaboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston
  • , Elizabeth RedcayAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Maryland
  • , Charles A. NelsonAffiliated withLaboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Children’s Hospital BostonHarvard Medical School

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Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty with social-emotional cues. This study examined the neural, behavioral, and autonomic correlates of emotional face processing in adolescents with ASD and typical development (TD) using eye-tracking and event-related potentials (ERPs) across two different paradigms. Scanning of faces was similar across groups in the first task, but the second task found that face-sensitive ERPs varied with emotional expressions only in TD. Further, ASD showed enhanced neural responding to non-social stimuli. In TD only, attention to eyes during eye-tracking related to faster face-sensitive ERPs in a separate task; in ASD, a significant positive association was found between autonomic activity and attention to mouths. Overall, ASD showed an atypical pattern of emotional face processing, with reduced neural differentiation between emotions and a reduced relationship between gaze behavior and neural processing of faces.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disorder Eye-tracking Event-related potentials Pupillometry Emotional face processing