A Systematic Review of the Eye Tracking and Electroencephalography Correlates of Facial Emotion Recognition in Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. H. Black1,2, N. T. Chen2,3,4, K. Iyer2,5, O. V. Lipp2,3, S. Bolte2,6,7,8, M. Falkmer9,10,11, T. Tan2,5 and S. J. Girdler9,12, (1)School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, (2)Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Long Pocket, Brisbane, Australia, (3)School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, (4)School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, (5)School of Mechanical Engineering, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, (6)Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet (KIND), Institutionen för kvinnors och barns hälsa (KBH), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (7)Karolinska Institutet Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Dept. Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (8)Stockholm County Council, Center for Psychiatry Research, Stockholm, Sweden, (9)School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (10)School of Education and Communication, CHILD programme, Institute of Disability Research, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Jönköping County, Sweden, (11)Curtin University, Bentley, Australia, (12)Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Brisbane, Australia
Background:  While difficulties in facial emotion recognition (FER) are quite consistently reported in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), behavioural studies alone cannot elucidate the specific nature of this impairment. Eye tracking (ET) and electroencephalography (EEG) provide insight in to the underlying attentional and neurological correlates underlying performance, allowing for a greater understanding of the processing of FER in ASD. Given that these processes change and develop along the developmental trajectory, there is a need to synthesise these findings in relation to developmental stages in order to investigate how the maturation of these systems impact FER in ASD.

Objectives: This systematic review evaluates the research examining the ET and EEG outcomes of individuals with ASD during FER in order to provide an overview of the current state-of-the-art in the area.

Methods:  A systematic review was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Six electronic databases were searched for articles examining either ET or EEG in individuals with ASD while completing FER tasks. This review examines 54 articles examining ET or EEG in individuals with ASD during FER meeting inclusion criteria.

Results: Both atypical gaze and cortical activation were found in articles included in this review. Reduced gaze to the eyes of emotionally expressive faces were consistently found in adult studies, however, were less consistently found in child studies, indicating an effect of developmental processes on these functions. Atypical cortical activation was evident across the developmental trajectory with effects being particularly evident for the N170 event related potential. Studies examining quantified EEG suggest that across the frequency spectra, individuals with ASD have atypical cognitive processing of FER, possibly indicating impairment in the pathways involved in the automatic processing of FER.

Conclusions:  ET and EEG findings indicate divergent development of the neurocognitive mechanisms of FER in individuals with ASD, which may further be modulated by certain self-regulatory or compensatory strategies. Implications for understanding the social brain in ASD, as well as future directions for the integration of ET and EEG methods are discussed.