Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 871–886 | Cite as

Enhanced Early Visual Responses During Implicit Emotional Faces Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Klara KovarskiEmail author
  • Rocco Mennella
  • Simeon M. Wong
  • Benjamin T. Dunkley
  • Margot J. Taylor
  • Magali Batty
Original Paper


Research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused on processing of socially-relevant stimuli, such as faces. Nonetheless, before being ‘social’, faces are visual stimuli. The present magnetoencephalography study investigated the time course of brain activity during an implicit emotional task in visual emotion-related regions in 19 adults with ASD (mean age 26.3 ± 4.4) and 19 typically developed controls (26.4 ± 4). The results confirmed previously-reported differences between groups in brain responses to emotion and a hypo-activation in the ASD group in the right fusiform gyrus around 150 ms. However, the ASD group also presented early enhanced activity in the occipital region. These results support that impaired face processing in ASD might be sustained by atypical responses in primary visual areas.


Autism MEG Face processing Emotion Visual processing 



The authors thank the participants for their involvement in the study. We also thank Anne Keller, Veronica Yuk and Rachel Leung for helping in data analyses and data collection.

Author Contributions

RM, SMW and BTD participated in the pre-processing of the data; KK, RM, SMW and BTD participated in the analysis of the data; KK, RM, BTD, MJT and MB contributed to interpretation of the data; MJT designed the protocol; KK, MJT and MB wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors participated in revising it critically for important intellectual content and have given final approval of the version to be published.


This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) 654 (Grants: MOP-119541 and MOP-142379) to MJT. The data analyses and the preparation of this article were supported by the Fondation Thérèse Planiol to KK.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLS 47 KB)
10803_2018_3787_MOESM2_ESM.xls (42 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLS 42 KB)
10803_2018_3787_MOESM3_ESM.xls (28 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (XLS 28 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR 1253, iBrain, Université de Tours, InsermCentre Universitaire de PédoPsychiatrieToursFrance
  2. 2.Department of Diagnostic ImagingThe Hospital for the Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Laboratoire de neurosciences cognitives, INSERM U960, Département d’études cognitives, École Normale SupérieurePSL Research UniversityParisFrance
  4. 4.Neurosciences & Mental Health ProgramThe Hospital for the Sick Children Research InstituteTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Medical ImagingUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  7. 7.CERPPS, Université de ToulouseToulouseFrance

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