Atypical Pupillary Light Reflex and Heart Rate Variability in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

We investigated pupillary light reflex (PLR) in 152 children with ASD, 116 typically developing (TD) children, and 36 children with non-ASD neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Heart rate variability (HRV) was measured simultaneously to study potential impairments in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) associated with ASD. The results showed that the ASD group had significantly longer PLR latency, reduced relative constriction amplitude, and shorter constriction/redilation time than those of the TD group. Similar atypical PLR parameters were observed in the NDD group. A significant age effect on PLR latency was observed in children younger than 9 years in the TD group, but not in the ASD and NDD groups. Atypical HRV parameters were observed in the ASD and NDD groups. A significant negative correlation existed between the PLR constriction amplitude and average heart rate in children with an ASD, but not in children with typical development.

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Acknowledgments

This study was made possible by research grant support from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (1R21NS070299-01) for tests in 200 participants and U. S. Army Medical Research Materiel Command (DoD W81XWH-10-1-0474) for tests in 100 additional participants. We thank Jill Akers, Andrew Lofgreen and Nathan Berliner for their help in participant recruitment and image processing. We also thank all the study participants and their families for their support of this research project.

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Correspondence to Gang Yao.

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Daluwatte, C., Miles, J.H., Christ, S.E. et al. Atypical Pupillary Light Reflex and Heart Rate Variability in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 43, 1910–1925 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-012-1741-3

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Keywords

  • Pupillary light reflex
  • Heart rate variability
  • Autism
  • Autonomic nervous system