Detecting subtle facial emotion recognition deficits in high-functioning Autism using dynamic stimuli of varying intensities

Miriam J Law Smith, Barbara Montagne, David I Perrett, Michael Gill, Louise Gallagher
Neuropsychologia 2010, 48 (9): 2777-81
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterised by social and communication impairment, yet evidence for deficits in the ability to recognise facial expressions of basic emotions is conflicting. Many studies reporting no deficits have used stimuli that may be too simple (with associated ceiling effects), for example, 100% 'full-blown' expressions. In order to investigate subtle deficits in facial emotion recognition, 21 adolescent males with high-functioning Austism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and 16 age and IQ matched typically developing control males completed a new sensitive test of facial emotion recognition which uses dynamic stimuli of varying intensities of expressions of the six basic emotions (Emotion Recognition Test; Montagne et al., 2007). Participants with ASD were found to be less accurate at processing the basic emotional expressions of disgust, anger and surprise; disgust recognition was most impaired--at 100% intensity and lower levels, whereas recognition of surprise and anger were intact at 100% but impaired at lower levels of intensity.

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