Response to Changes in Facial Emotional Expression

Brief Description

The purpose of this research study is to learn more about how children and adults process emotion in the faces that they see around them. We are particularly interested in how much information children need, as compared to adults, in order to recognize emotion in a face and the brain activity that is associated with recognizing these emotions. We also are interested in whether looking at different parts of the face has an effect on whether or not children and adults recognize emotions in faces. For this study, we will explore these questions in both typically developing individuals and individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.

Eligibility for Study Participation

Individuals age 18-22 with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Participation Details

Participation entails one visit to the Lab,s where we will provide free parking and childcare for any siblings. The visit should take approximately one hour and will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you. For our 5- and 12-year old participants, parents will be with their child at all times. During this visit, participants will view pictures of faces with different facial expressions such as anger, happiness, and fear. While they watch the pictures, we will record their brain activity and track where they are looking on the screen. In a separate task, we will also ask participants to sort facial images according to emotional expression.

Research Contact

Rhiannon Luyster

Full Description

The ability to perceive and identify emotions in faces is crucial to maintaining successful social interactions, and it is often an area of difficulty for individuals with ASD. Although many researchers have explored behavioral and brain responses to ‘prototypical’ facial expressions (that is, very extreme examples of emotion), much less is known about how we respond to the more subtle expressions that characterize our daily interactions and to what degree that ability changes as we get older.

This study is designed to learn more about how the brains of both children and adults respond to expressions of different emotions of varying intensities and whether our behavioral responses to these expressions are consistent with the brain’s response. For example, does our brain detect an emotion in a face even when we don’t think we’ve seen one. Finally, we are curious to learn whether where we look on a face (for instance, at the eyes or the mouth) plays a role in our response to emotional faces.

This study will include both typically developing individuals and individuals with an autism spectrum disorder, and we hope that the findings will shed light on the specific areas of strength and difficulty for individuals with ASD. By gaining better insight into the complexities of emotional face processing, we may be able to contribute to a better understanding of the disorder and the design of more effective intervention programs and therapies.