Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty recognizing and interpreting how facial expressions convey various emotions – from joy to puzzlement, sadness to anger. This can make it difficult for an individual with ASD to successfully navigate social situations and empathize with others.
A study led by researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Columbia University used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural activity of different brain regions in participants with ASD, compared with typically developing (TD) participants, when viewing facial emotions.
The researchers found that while behavioral response to face-stimuli was comparable across groups, the corresponding neural activity between ASD and TD groups differed dramatically.
“Studying these similarities and differences may help us understand the origins of interpersonal emotional experience in people with ASD, and provide targets for intervention,” said principal investigator Bradley S. Peterson, MD, director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.