Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 869–879 | Cite as

Emotional Responses to Odors in Children with High-Functioning Autism: Autonomic Arousal, Facial Behavior and Self-Report

  • Jasna Legiša
  • Daniel S. Messinger
  • Enzo Kermol
  • Luc Marlier
Original Paper


Although emotional functioning is impaired in children with autism, it is unclear if this impairment is due to difficulties with facial expression, autonomic responsiveness, or the verbal description of emotional states. To shed light on this issue, we examined responses to pleasant and unpleasant odors in eight children (8–14 years) with high-functioning autism and 8 age-matched typically developing controls. Despite subtle differences in the facial actions of the children with autism, children in both groups had similar facial and autonomic emotional responses to the odors. However, children with autism were less likely than controls to report an emotional reaction to the odors that matched their facial expression, suggesting difficulties in the self report of emotional states.


Autism Olfaction Emotion Facial expression Autonomic system Self-report 



The authors wish to thank the children and parents who accepted to participate to this study. This research was supported by the Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France) and the French Ministry of Health (PHRC program to Luc Marlier); Daniel Messinger’s involvement in this project was supported by grants from Autism Speaks, the National Science Foundation (1052736 & 0808767), and the National Institutes of Health (HD047417 & HD057284). We gratefully thank: Manuel Devetak for informatic support, William Geroldini, Thierry Pebayle, and Arnaud Eschenlauer for their technical support, Franco De Marchi, Clara Sforzina and Giovanni Grube for their organisation in the recruitment of subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jasna Legiša
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  • Daniel S. Messinger
    • 5
  • Enzo Kermol
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luc Marlier
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Università degli Studi di TriesteFriuli Venezia GiuliaItaly
  2. 2.Centro Ricerca FACSFriuli Venezia GiuliaItaly
  3. 3.Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueAlsaceFrance
  4. 4.Université de StrasbourgAlsaceFrance
  5. 5.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  6. 6.Centro Ricerca FACSTriesteItaly

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