The Relationship Between Early Neural Responses to Emotional Faces at Age 3 and Later Autism and Anxiety Symptoms in Adolescents with Autism
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Both autism spectrum (ASD) and anxiety disorders are associated with atypical neural and attentional responses to emotional faces, differing in affective face processing from typically developing peers. Within a longitudinal study of children with ASD (23 male, 3 female), we hypothesized that early ERPs to emotional faces would predict concurrent and later ASD and anxiety symptoms. Greater response amplitude to fearful faces corresponded to greater social communication difficulties at age 3, and less improvement by age 14. Faster ERPs to neutral faces predicted greater ASD symptom improvement over time, lower ASD severity in adolescence, and lower anxiety in adolescence. Early individual differences in processing of emotional stimuli likely reflect a unique predictive contribution from social brain circuitry early in life.
KeywordsAutism Face processing ERP Internalizing Anxiety
Support for this project was provided by NICHD and NIDCD PO1HD34565 and an Autism Speaks Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowship (Neuhaus).
Conceptualization: GD, SW, AE; Methodology: GD, SW, AE, JM; Formal Analysis: EJ, EN; Investigation: SW, AE, LS, KB, EN; Writing - Original Draft: EN, SW; Writing - Review & Editing: all authors; Project Administration: GD, AE, SW.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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