Impaired Recognition of Emotions From Body Movements Is Associated With Elevated Motion Coherence Thresholds in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Nov;47(13):3023-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.05.019. Epub 2009 Jun 3.


Recent research has confirmed that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties in recognizing emotions from body movements. Difficulties in perceiving coherent motion are also common in ASD. Yet it is unknown whether these two impairments are related. Thirteen adults with ASD and 16 age- and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) adults classified basic emotions from point-light and full-light displays of body movements and discriminated the direction of coherent motion in random-dot kinematograms. The ASD group was reliably less accurate in classifying emotions regardless of stimulus display type, and in perceiving coherent motion. As predicted, ASD individuals with higher motion coherence thresholds were less accurate in classifying emotions from body movements, especially in the point-light displays; this relationship was not evident for the TD group. The results are discussed in relation to recent models of biological motion processing and known abnormalities in the neural substrates of motion and social perception in ASD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asperger Syndrome / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception*
  • Movement*
  • Recognition, Psychology*