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Neuropsychologia. 2019 Mar 18;126:128-137. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.06.023. Epub 2017 Jun 21.

Testing the effects of expression, intensity and age on emotional face processing in ASD.

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Emerson College, United States. Electronic address:
University of Houston, United States.
Boston Children's Hospital, United States.
Boston Children's Hospital, United States; Harvard Medical School, United States; Harvard Graduate School of Education, United States.


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) commonly show global deficits in the processing of facial emotion, including impairments in emotion recognition and slowed processing of emotional faces. Growing evidence has suggested that these challenges may increase with age, perhaps due to minimal improvement with age in individuals with ASD. In the present study, we explored the role of age, emotion type and emotion intensity in face processing for individuals with and without ASD. Twelve- and 18-22- year-old children with and without ASD participated. No significant diagnostic group differences were observed on behavioral measures of emotion processing for younger versus older individuals with and without ASD. However, there were significant group differences in neural responses to emotional faces. Relative to TD, at 12 years of age and during adulthood, individuals with ASD showed slower N170 to emotional faces. While the TD groups' P1 latency was significantly shorter in adults when compared to 12 year olds, there was no significant age-related difference in P1 latency among individuals with ASD. Findings point to potential differences in the maturation of cortical networks that support visual processing (whether of faces or stimuli more broadly), among individuals with and without ASD between late childhood and adulthood. Finally, associations between ERP amplitudes and behavioral responses on emotion processing tasks suggest possible neural markers for emotional and behavioral deficits among individuals with ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder; ERP; Emotion perception; Face processing; Social cognition

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