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


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


AS :

Asperger’s Syndrome


Autism Spectrum Disorder


Dimensions of Mastery Questionnaire Subscale, Social Persistence with Peers


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders




Early Posterior Negativity


Event-Related Potential

FG :

Fusiform Gyrus


High Spatial Frequencies


Inferior Occipital Gyrus

IQ :

Intelligence Quotient


Low Spatial Frequencies

MeSH :

Medical Subject Headings


Negative Slow Wave


Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses


Superior Temporal Sulcus


Support Vector Machine

TD :

Typically Developing


Vertex Positive Potential


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Correspondence to Miguel Castelo Branco.

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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).

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  • ASD
  • Facial expression
  • Emotion
  • EEG
  • ERP