Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 358–370 | Cite as

Emotion Recognition in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Relations to Eye Gaze and Autonomic State

  • Elgiz Bal
  • Emily Harden
  • Damon Lamb
  • Amy Vaughan Van Hecke
  • John W. Denver
  • Stephen W. Porges
Original Paper


Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), heart rate, and accuracy and latency of emotion recognition were evaluated in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and typically developing children while viewing videos of faces slowly transitioning from a neutral expression to one of six basic emotions (e.g., anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise). Children with ASD were slower in emotion recognition and selectively made more errors in detecting anger. ASD children had lower amplitude RSA and faster heart rate. Within the ASD group, children with higher amplitude RSA recognized emotions faster. Less severe ASD symptoms and increased gaze to the eye region in children with ASD were related to more accurate emotion recognition.


Autism Emotion recognition Eye gaze RSA Social engagement Polyvagal Theory 



Support for the research described in this manuscript was provided, in part, by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH060625), Cure Autism Now Foundation, Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, and Autism Speaks. The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of NIH or other funding agencies. We would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their help during data collection and management: Alexis Kramer, Jocelyn Lebow, Wendy Padilla, beloved Andrea Plaut who is no longer with us, and Marika I. Wrzosek. We would also like to thank the parents and children who participated in the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elgiz Bal
    • 1
  • Emily Harden
    • 1
  • Damon Lamb
    • 1
    • 2
  • Amy Vaughan Van Hecke
    • 1
    • 3
  • John W. Denver
    • 1
    • 4
  • Stephen W. Porges
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry (MC 912), Brain-Body CenterUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Marquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA
  4. 4.Fort JacksonUSA

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