The effect of gaze direction on the processing of facial expressions in children with autism spectrum disorder: an ERP study

Hironori Akechi, Atsushi Senju, Yukiko Kikuchi, Yoshikuni Tojo, Hiroo Osanai, Toshikazu Hasegawa
Neuropsychologia 2010, 48 (10): 2841-51
This study investigated the neural basis of the effect of gaze direction on facial expression processing in children with and without ASD, using event-related potential (ERP). Children with ASD (10-17-year olds) and typically developing (TD) children (9-16-year olds) were asked to determine the emotional expressions (anger or fearful) of a facial stimulus with a direct or averted gaze, and the ERPs were recorded concurrently. In TD children, faces with a congruent expression and gaze direction in approach-avoidance motivation, such as an angry face with a direct gaze (i.e., approaching motivation) and a fearful face with an averted gaze (i.e., avoidant motivation), were recognized more accurately and elicited larger N170 amplitudes than motivationally incongruent facial stimuli (an angry face with an averted gaze and a fearful face with a direct gaze). These results demonstrated the neural basis and time course of integration of facial expression and gaze direction in TD children and its impairment in children with ASD.

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