ERIC Number: EJ928633
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Neural Activation to Emotional Faces in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Weng, Shih-Jen; Carrasco, Melisa; Swartz, Johnna R.; Wiggins, Jillian Lee; Kurapati, Nikhil; Liberzon, Israel; Risi, Susan; Lord, Catherine; Monk, Christopher S.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, v52 n3 p296-305 Mar 2011
Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) involve a core deficit in social functioning and impairments in the ability to recognize face emotions. In an emotional faces task designed to constrain group differences in attention, the present study used functional MRI to characterize activation in the amygdala, ventral prefrontal cortex (vPFC), and striatum, three structures involved in socio-emotional processing in adolescents with ASD. Methods: Twenty-two adolescents with ASD and 20 healthy adolescents viewed facial expressions (happy, fearful, sad and neutral) that were briefly presented (250 ms) during functional MRI acquisition. To monitor attention, subjects pressed a button to identify the gender of each face. Results: The ASD group showed greater activation to the faces relative to the control group in the amygdala, vPFC and striatum. Follow-up analyses indicated that the ASD relative to control group showed greater activation in the amygdala, vPFC and striatum (p less than 0.05 small volume corrected), particularly to sad faces. Moreover, in the ASD group, there was a negative correlation between developmental variables (age and pubertal status) and mean activation from the whole bilateral amygdala; younger adolescents showed greater activation than older adolescents. There were no group differences in accuracy or reaction time in the gender identification task. Conclusions: When group differences in attention to facial expressions were limited, adolescents with ASD showed greater activation in structures involved in socio-emotional processing.
Descriptors: Control Groups, Reaction Time, Autism, Adolescents, Emotional Response, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Interpersonal Competence, Diagnostic Tests, Brain Hemisphere Functions, Comparative Analysis, Visual Stimuli, Attention, Age Differences, Gender Differences
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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