Enhanced Early Visual Responses During Implicit Emotional Faces Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder

J Autism Dev Disord. 2019 Mar;49(3):871-886. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3787-3.


Research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused on processing of socially-relevant stimuli, such as faces. Nonetheless, before being 'social', faces are visual stimuli. The present magnetoencephalography study investigated the time course of brain activity during an implicit emotional task in visual emotion-related regions in 19 adults with ASD (mean age 26.3 ± 4.4) and 19 typically developed controls (26.4 ± 4). The results confirmed previously-reported differences between groups in brain responses to emotion and a hypo-activation in the ASD group in the right fusiform gyrus around 150 ms. However, the ASD group also presented early enhanced activity in the occipital region. These results support that impaired face processing in ASD might be sustained by atypical responses in primary visual areas.

Keywords: Autism; Emotion; Face processing; MEG; Visual processing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Occipital Lobe / physiopathology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult