Differences in cortical processing of facial emotions in broader autism phenotype


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous condition that affects face perception. Evidence shows that there are differences in face perception associated with the processing of low spatial frequency (LSF) and high spatial frequency (HSF) of visual stimuli between non-symptomatic relatives of individuals with autism (broader autism phenotype, BAP) and typically developing individuals. However, the neural mechanisms involved in these differences are not fully understood. Here we tested whether face-sensitive event related potentials could serve as neuronal markers of differential spatial frequency processing, and whether these potentials could differentiate non-symptomatic parents of children with autism (pASD) from parents of typically developing children (pTD). To this end, we performed electroencephalographic recordings of both groups of parents while they had to recognize emotions of face pictures composed of the same or different emotions (happiness or anger) presented in different spatial frequencies. We found no significant differences in the accuracy between groups but lower amplitude modulation in the Late Positive Potential activity in pASD. Source analysis showed a difference in the right posterior part of the superior temporal region that correlated with ASD symptomatology of the child. These results reveal differences in brain processing of recognition of facial emotion in BAP that could be a precursor of ASD.

Brice Beffara
Brice Beffara
Lecturer-researcher in psychology and methods

My research interests include social psychology, biological psychology, and methods.