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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 May;23(5):257-71. doi: 10.1007/s00787-013-0446-2. Epub 2013 Jul 4.

Recognition of facial emotion and affective prosody in children with ASD (+ADHD) and their unaffected siblings.

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Department of Psychiatry, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands,


Autism is a highly heritable and clinically heterogeneous neuropsychiatric disorder that frequently co-occurs with other psychopathologies, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). An approach to parse heterogeneity is by forming more homogeneous subgroups of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) patients based on their underlying, heritable cognitive vulnerabilities (endophenotypes). Emotion recognition is a likely endophenotypic candidate for ASD and possibly for ADHD. Therefore, this study aimed to examine whether emotion recognition is a viable endophenotypic candidate for ASD and to assess the impact of comorbid ADHD in this context. A total of 90 children with ASD (43 with and 47 without ADHD), 79 ASD unaffected siblings, and 139 controls aged 6-13 years, were included to test recognition of facial emotion and affective prosody. Our results revealed that the recognition of both facial emotion and affective prosody was impaired in children with ASD and aggravated by the presence of ADHD. The latter could only be partly explained by typical ADHD cognitive deficits, such as inhibitory and attentional problems. The performance of unaffected siblings could overall be considered at an intermediate level, performing somewhat worse than the controls and better than the ASD probands. Our findings suggest that emotion recognition might be a viable endophenotype in ASD and a fruitful target in future family studies of the genetic contribution to ASD and comorbid ADHD. Furthermore, our results suggest that children with comorbid ASD and ADHD are at highest risk for emotion recognition problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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