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Biol Psychol. 2019 Jul;145:185-197. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.05.004. Epub 2019 May 10.

Autonomic response in autism spectrum disorder: Relationship to social and cognitive functioning.

Author information

1
The Menninger Clinic, 12301 Main St., Houston, TX, 77035, United States; Baylor College of Medicine, 12301 Main St., Houston, TX, 77035, United States; Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, 12301 Main St., Houston, TX, 77035, United States. Electronic address: michelle.patriquin@bcm.edu.
2
The Menninger Clinic, 12301 Main St., Houston, TX, 77035, United States; Baylor College of Medicine, 12301 Main St., Houston, TX, 77035, United States. Electronic address: ehartwig@menninger.edu.
3
Virginia Tech, VT Center for Autism Research, 109 Williams Hall, Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 24061, United States. Electronic address: bhfriedm@vt.edu.
4
Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 47405, United States; Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 27514, United States. Electronic address: sporges@indiana.edu.
5
Virginia Tech, VT Center for Autism Research, 109 Williams Hall, Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 24061, United States. Electronic address: ascarpa@vt.edu.

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may exhibit chronic autonomic nervous system (ANS) hyperarousal (e.g., lower respiratory sinus arrhythmia and higher heart rate) compared to their typically developing peers, reflecting a chronic biological threat response. The sustained nature of this cardiac threat suggests tonic nervous system perception of threat in safe contexts. Herein, the cardiac literature in adult and child populations with ASD is reviewed and placed within a continuum of functioning in order to inform the relationship between cardiac response and functioning in ASD. Findings from this review support the relationship between chronic autonomic hyperarousal and emotional and behavioral difficulties observed in individuals with ASD.

KEYWORDS:

Autism spectrum disorder; Cardiac; Development; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Social

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