Recent research has shown the independent contribution of the Somatosensory Cortex (SCx) to emotion recognition, supporting the embodied emotion hypothesis. Atypical patterns of responses to emotions in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been investigated only at a visual level, here we aim to investigate if ASD individuals show atypical patterns of embodiment during emotion perception beyond the established visual differences. We investigate embodied responses during emotion perception in ASD in 2 groups (typically developed (TD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) individuals). We presented neutral, afraid and happy faces to our participants while recording their brain activity with EEG. We measured the visual evoked potentials (VEPs) over the occipital lobe and the somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) over the SCx. SEPs were evoked by applying a tactile stimulation on their index finger during the visual processing. To isolate the pure somatosensory responses related to emotional processing from visual carryover effects, we subtracted the neural activity recorded in the visual condition from activity in the tactile condition (following Sel et al., 2014). We found significant interactions involving emotion between 35-95 ms, and interestingly, we found a significant task and group interaction between 95-125 ms, suggesting atypical modulation of embodied responses to emotional expressions in ASD compared to TD. Our study provides novel evidence of atypical pattern of neural responses during perception of emotional expressions in the Somatosensory Cortex in individuals with ASD.
Embodied representations of emotional expressions in Autism Spectrum Disorder / Fanghella, Martina; Gaigg, Sebastian; Forster, Bettina; Candidi, Matteo; Calvo-Merino, Beatriz. - (2019). (Intervento presentato al convegno CNS - Cognitive Neuroscience Society Annual Meeting 2019 tenutosi a San Francisco, CA (US)).