Cognitive Modulation of Arousal in ASD: Linking Emotion Processing and Anxiety Across Development

Many individuals with ASD struggle to understand emotions and experience clinically significant anxiety, but little is known about the developmental origins of these difficulties. Here, we present data suggesting that both problems stem from atypical integration of cognitive and arousal responses to emotional situations. During development, infants learn to make appropriate cognitive interpretations of arousal states through social interaction. In ASD, we propose that early delays in face processing and atypical arousal responses compromise this developmental process, leading to persistent problems with emotional understanding and anxiety. Specifically, Jones and Wagner show that atypicalities in cognitive and arousal responses to emotion faces are present in infants at high-risk for ASD, that these atypicalities jointly relate to temperamental fear, and to later social-communicative deficits and early autism classification. Webb shows that children with ASD who display atypical electrophysiological responses to emotion faces at age 3 may be at risk for clinically significant anxiety by age 15. Finally, Gaigg demonstrates that anxiety and emotion understanding are strongly related in adults with ASD, and are underpinned by difficulties in cognitive appraisal of own arousal state. Taken together, these talks support a common developmental route to emotion processing difficulties and anxiety in ASD.
Thursday, May 15, 2014: 1:30 PM-3:30 PM
Imperial A (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
1:30 PM
Facial Emotions Elicit Atypical Arousal and Visual Attention Patterns in 14-Month-Old Infants at High Risk for Autism
E. J. Jones, T. Gliga, S. Rigato, T. Charman, M. H. Johnson and .. The BASIS Team