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Dev Psychopathol. 2014 Nov;26(4 Pt 1):933-45. doi: 10.1017/S0954579414000479. Epub 2014 Jun 10.

Impairments in facial affect recognition associated with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis.

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Georgetown University.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by social impairments, including inappropriate responses to affective stimuli and nonverbal cues, which may extend to poor face-emotion recognition. However, the results of empirical studies of face-emotion recognition in individuals with ASD have yielded inconsistent findings that occlude understanding the role of face-emotion recognition deficits in the development of ASD. The goal of this meta-analysis was to address three as-yet unanswered questions. Are ASDs associated with consistent face-emotion recognition deficits? Do deficits generalize across multiple emotional expressions or are they limited to specific emotions? Do age or cognitive intelligence affect the magnitude of identified deficits? The results indicate that ASDs are associated with face-emotion recognition deficits across multiple expressions and that the magnitude of these deficits increases with age and cannot be accounted for by intelligence. These findings suggest that, whereas neurodevelopmental processes and social experience produce improvements in general face-emotion recognition abilities over time during typical development, children with ASD may experience disruptions in these processes, which suggested distributed functional impairment in the neural architecture that subserves face-emotion processing, an effect with downstream developmental consequences.

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