Early processing of emotional faces in children with autism: An event-related potential study

M Batty, E Meaux, Kerstin Wittemeyer, B Roge, MJ Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

85 Citations (Scopus)


Social deficits are one of the most striking manifestations of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Among these social deficits, the recognition and understanding of emotional facial expressions has been widely reported to be affected in ASDs. We investigated emotional face processing in children with and without autism using event-related potentials (ERPs). High-functioning children with autism (n = 15, mean age = 10.5 +/- 3.3 years) completed an implicit emotional task while visual ERPs were recorded. Two groups of typically developing children (chronological age-matched and verbal equivalent age-matched [both ns = 15, mean age = 7.7 +/- 3.8 years]) also participated in this study. The early ERP responses to faces (P1 and N170) were delayed, and the P1 was smaller in children with autism than in typically developing children of the same chronological age, revealing that the first stages of emotional face processing are affected in autism. However, when matched by verbal equivalent age, only P1 amplitude remained affected in autism. Our results suggest that the emotional and facial processing difficulties in autism could start from atypicalities in visual perceptual processes involving rapid feedback to primary visual areas and subsequent holistic processing. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-444
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


  • Visual processing
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Emotional faces
  • Development
  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)


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