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Emotional attribution in high-functioning individuals with autistic spectrum disorder: a functional imaging study.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.



To determine whether expertise in the attribution of emotion from basic facial expressions in high-functioning individuals with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is supported by the amygdala, fusiform, and prefrontal regions of interest (ROI) and is comparable to that of typically developing individuals.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired from 14 males with ASD and 10 matched adolescent controls while performing emotion match (EM) (perceptual), emotion label (EL) (linguistic), and control tasks. Accuracy, response time, and average activation were measured for each ROI.


There was no significant difference in accuracy, response time, or ROI activation between groups performing the EL task. The ASD group was as accurate as the control group performing the EM task but had a significantly longer response time and lower average fusiform activation.


Expertise in the attribution of emotion from basic facial expressions was task-dependent in the high-functioning ASD group. The hypothesis that the high-functioning ASD group would be less expert and would have reduced fusiform activation was supported in the perceptual task but not the linguistic task. The reduced fusiform activation in the perceptual task was not explained by reduced expertise; it is therefore concluded that reduced fusiform activation is associated with the diagnosis of ASD.

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