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Processing of Facial Expressions in Autism: a Systematic Review of EEG/ERP Evidence

Abstract

The aim of this systematic review is to examine electrophysiological differences in emotional facial expression processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We identified 55 articles using PubMed. After application of the rejection criteria, in a two-step procedure, based on abstract and full-text reading, we selected 16 studies for review. We identified group differences and emotion by group interactions in most of the studies during facial emotion-processing tasks. Nine articles reported main effects of facial expression type. Smaller amplitudes and delayed latencies were consistently reported to emotional expressions in ASD subjects compared to controls. Right hemisphere dominance was found in both groups. Our systematic review confirms facial emotion-processing deficits in ASD, which are often linked with emotion recognition deficits.

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Fig. 1

Abbreviations

AS :

Asperger’s Syndrome

ASD :

Autism Spectrum Disorder

DMQ-SPP :

Dimensions of Mastery Questionnaire Subscale, Social Persistence with Peers

DSM :

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

EEG :

Electroencephalography

EPN :

Early Posterior Negativity

ERP :

Event-Related Potential

FG :

Fusiform Gyrus

HSF :

High Spatial Frequencies

IOG :

Inferior Occipital Gyrus

IQ :

Intelligence Quotient

LSF :

Low Spatial Frequencies

MeSH :

Medical Subject Headings

NSW :

Negative Slow Wave

PRISMA :

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

STS :

Superior Temporal Sulcus

SVM :

Support Vector Machine

TD :

Typically Developing

VPP :

Vertex Positive Potential

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Correspondence to Miguel Castelo Branco.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Funding

This work was funded by Project UID/NEU/04539/2013, Strategic Project and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007440 and Fellowship SFRH/BD/77044/2011 (to MS) of the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (Portugal); BIGDATIMAGE (CENTRO-01-0145-FEDER-000016), COMPETE; and FP7-HEALTH-2013-INNOVATION-1—602,186—BRAINTRAIN, of the European Commission/Seventh Framework Program, Fundacao Luso Americana para o Desenvolvimento Award Number: FLAD Life Sciences ED2, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia: PACPOCI-01-0145-FEDER-016428 MEDPERSYST

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Monteiro, R., Simões, M., Andrade, J. et al. Processing of Facial Expressions in Autism: a Systematic Review of EEG/ERP Evidence. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 4, 255–276 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-017-0112-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-017-0112-6

Keywords

  • ASD
  • Facial expression
  • Emotion
  • EEG
  • ERP