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Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 19 December 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00334

Measuring affective reactivity in individuals with autism spectrum personality traits using the visual mismatch negativity event-related brain potential

Leigh C. Gayle, Diana E. Gal and Paul D. Kieffaber*
  • Department of Psychology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, USA

The primary aim of this research was to determine how modulation of the visual mismatch negativity (vMMN) by emotionally laden faces is related to autism spectrum personality traits. Emotionally neutral faces served as the standard stimuli and happy and sad expressions served as vMMN-eliciting deviants. Consistent with prior research, it was anticipated that the amplitude of the vMMN would be increased for emotionally salient stimuli. Extending this finding, it was expected that this emotion-based amplitude sensitivity of the vMMN would be decreased in individuals with higher levels of autism spectrum personality traits as measured by the Adult Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Higher AQ scores were associated with smaller amplitudes of the vMMN in response to happy, but not sad emotional deviants. The fact that higher AQ scores were associated with less sensitivity only to happy emotional expressions is interpreted to be consistent with the negative experience of social interactions reported by individuals who are high on the autism spectrum. This research suggests that the vMMN elicited by deviant emotional expressions may be a useful indicator of affective reactivity and may thus be related to social competency in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Keywords: mismatch negativity (MMN), autism spectrum disorders, affect, ERPs, affective disorders

Citation: Gayle LC, Gal DE and Kieffaber PD (2012) Measuring affective reactivity in individuals with autism spectrum personality traits using the visual mismatch negativity event-related brain potential. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:334. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00334

Received: 09 August 2012; Accepted: 04 December 2012;
Published online: 19 December 2012.

Edited by:

Gabor Stefanics, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Reviewed by:

Leslie J. Carver, University of California, San Diego, USA
Piia Astikainen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Copyright © 2012 Gayle, Gal and Kieffaber. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Paul D. Kieffaber, Department of Psychology, The College of William and Mary, 540 Landrum Dr., Integrated Science Center, Room 1087, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA. e-mail: pdkieffaber@wm.edu