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Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2011 Sep;33(3):261-7.

Facial emotion recognition deficits in relatives of children with autism are not associated with 5HTTLPR.

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Molecular and Biochemistry Pharmacology Program, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.



A large body of evidence suggests that several aspects of face processing are impaired in autism and that this impairment might be hereditary. This study was aimed at assessing facial emotion recognition in parents of children with autism and its associations with a functional polymorphism of the serotonin transporter (5HTTLPR).


We evaluated 40 parents of children with autism and 41 healthy controls. All participants were administered the Penn Emotion Recognition Test (ER40) and were genotyped for 5HTTLPR.


Our study showed that parents of children with autism performed worse in the facial emotion recognition test than controls. Analyses of error patterns showed that parents of children with autism over-attributed neutral to emotional faces. We found evidence that 5HTTLPR polymorphism did not influence the performance in the Penn Emotion Recognition Test, but that it may determine different error patterns.


Facial emotion recognition deficits are more common in first-degree relatives of autistic patients than in the general population, suggesting that facial emotion recognition is a candidate endophenotype for autism.

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