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Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 425–443 | Cite as

Motor, Emotional, and Cognitive Empathy in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Conduct Disorder

  • Danielle Bons
  • Egon van den Broek
  • Floor Scheepers
  • Pierre Herpers
  • Nanda Rommelse
  • Jan K. Buitelaaar
Article

Abstract

It is unclear which aspects of empathy are shared and which are uniquely affected in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and conduct disorder (CD) as are the neurobiological correlates of these empathy impairments. The aim of this systematic review is to describe the overlap and specificity of motor, emotional, and cognitive aspects of empathy in children and adolescents with ASD or CD. Motor and cognitive empathy impairments are found in both ASD and CD, yet the specificity seems to differ. In ASD facial mimicry and emotion recognition may be impaired for all basic emotions, whereas in CD this is only the case for negative emotions. Emotional empathy and the role of attention to the eyes therein need further investigation. We hypothesize that impaired motor and cognitive empathy in both disorders are a consequence of lack of attention to the eyes. However, we hypothesize major differences in emotional empathy deficits between ASD and CD, probably due to emotional autonomic and amygdala hyper-responsivity in ASD versus hypo-responsivity in CD, both resulting in lack of attention to the eyes.

Keywords

Empathy Autism spectrum disorders Conduct disorder Facial expression Emotion 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danielle Bons
    • 1
  • Egon van den Broek
    • 1
  • Floor Scheepers
    • 2
  • Pierre Herpers
    • 1
  • Nanda Rommelse
    • 1
  • Jan K. Buitelaaar
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryRadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenthe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity Medical Centre UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Cognitive NeuroscienceRadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenthe Netherlands

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