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Autonomic arousal explains social cognitive abilities in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder

Mathersul, D., McDonald, S. and Rushby, J.A. (2013) Autonomic arousal explains social cognitive abilities in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 89 (3). pp. 475-482.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.04.014
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Abstract

Empirical research into behavioural profiles and autonomic responsivity in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is highly variable and inconsistent. Two preliminary studies of children with ASDs suggest that there may be subgroups of ASDs depending on their resting arousal levels, and that these subgroups show different profiles of autonomic responsivity. The aim of the present study was to determine whether (i) adults with high-functioning ASDs may be separated into subgroups according to variation in resting arousal; and (ii) these ASD arousal subgroups differ in their behavioural profiles for basic emotion recognition, judgements of trustworthiness, and cognitive and affective empathy. Thirty high-functioning adults with ASDs and 34 non-clinical controls participated. Resting arousal was determined as the average skin conductance (SCL) across a 2 min resting period. There was a subgroup of ASD adults with significantly lower resting SCL. These individuals demonstrated poorer emotion recognition, tended to judge faces more negatively, and had atypical relationships between SCL and affective empathy. In contrast, low cognitive empathy was a feature of all ASD adults. These findings have important implications for clinical interventions and future studies investigating autonomic functioning in ASDs.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/55603
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