Electrophysiological Responses to Emotional Facial Expressions in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review

  • Parisa Ghanouni
  • Jill G. Zwicker
Review Paper


Studies on processing of emotional faces in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have shown mixed findings. The goal of this systematic review was to investigate brain electrical responses to emotional facial expressions in individuals with ASD. We conducted a literature search of nine databases and grey literature sources up to Jan 2017, resulting in 943 studies. Eleven studies met inclusion criteria, with quality assessments varying from three to six out of 10. This systematic review demonstrates that individuals with ASD show a lack of sensitivity to different emotional expressions, especially fear, compared to their peers. Atypical brain responses in processing emotional faces may reflect the abnormalities in visual perception and information processing that are present early in life.


EEG Facial expressions Autism spectrum disorder Systematic review 



We would like to express our thanks to librarian Charlotte Beck who assisted in developing our search.

Funding Information

This study was not funded by any sources or agencies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Zwicker is funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program, BC Children’s Hospital, Sunny Hill Foundation, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Zwicker has also received speaker honoraria from McGill University, University of Montreal, University of Toronto, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Occupational Science and Occupational TherapyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Pediatrics (Division of Developmental Pediatrics)University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.BC Children’s Hospital Research InstituteVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Sunny Hill Health Centre for ChildrenVancouverCanada
  6. 6.Research Associate, CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability ResearchHamiltonCanada

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