Emotion attribution from facial expressions in individuals with social communication

Piggot, Judith Innes (2008) Emotion attribution from facial expressions in individuals with social communication. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Social communication impairment (SCI) is recognised as the core deficit in all autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Social communication involves the perceptual, emotion and cognitive processing of the facial expressions of other people to attribute the correct emotion. Activation in these three regions of interest (ROI) is, potentially, informative when investigating the underlying aetiology of SCI. Therefore, they were chosen a priori as ROI during the attribution of emotion attribution from facial expressions with the categorical and dimensional studies respectively. In the categorical studies, 16 high functioning individuals with an ASD diagnosis and 10 typically developing controls attributed emotion from static facial expressions while neural activation in these three hypothesis-driven ROI was measured. Individuals with ASD demonstrated comparable expertise and had comparable ROI activation during the emotion attribution task that required configural processing [the emotion label task]. However, these same individuals demonstrated reduced expertise and reduced right FG activation during the emotion attribution task that did not require configural processing [the emotion match task], and reduced right FG activation in a task that required them to attend to the eyes region of the face to attribute gaze direction. The findings provided evidence that individuals with ASD configurally process face percepts when necessary for the completion of the task, but use atypical face processing strategies in tasks that have greater perceptual load and do not necessitate configural processing. These findings support that task-dependant perceptual processing abnormalities in ASD are not related to reduced attention to the eyes region of the face per se; however, did not rule out that these abnormalities may relate to reduced configural processing/ attention to the whole face stimuli in individuals with ASD. The dimensional studies were undertaken to further investigate the relationship between FG responsivity and expertise in the attribution of emotion from facial expressions. These facial expressions, which were presented in a paradigm called the Dynamic Facial Expression Paradigm (DFEP), required configural processing and continuous attention to the whole face. Individuals with SCI had a similar capacity to accurately attribute emotion from non-inverted dynamic facial expressions as their brothers. Although there was no statistically significant difference in expertise between the proband and brother group, the trend toward increased response time in the non-inverted condition of the DFEP in the SCI group suggests the use of an accuracy/ response time trade-off strategy. SCI was directly correlated with right FG activation across the groups and the proband group activated significantly greater right FG activation to achieve a comparable level of performance as the brother group in the non-inverted condition of the DFEP. This finding may be related to increased configural processing and/ or the greater attentional demands inherent in attributing emotion from non-inverted dynamic facial expressions. The inverse was found in the inverted condition of the DFEP providing evidence for different perceptual processing strategies between groups when also processing inverted dynamic facial expressions. Both the categorical and dimensional studies provide evidence in support of the functional specialisation of the right FG for the configural processing of facial expressions, and atypical task-dependent perceptual processing in these high functioning individuals with SCI. Differing configural processing and attentional demands inherent in the experimental paradigms and atypical perceptual strategies offer possible explanations for atypical perceptual processing and differing right FG activation seen in these and other studies of face and facial expression processing (6-8). In the future, larger studies are required to further investigate accuracy/ speed trade-offs and determine if high functioning individuals with SCI are less expert in the attribution of emotion from facial expressions. Connectivity and fMRI studies utilising experimental designs such as parametric load analysis and incorporating eye-tracking technology are also required to further elucidate the relationship between behaviour, cognition, and neural function in individuals with SCI. Specifically, further integrated research is needed to determine the relationship between right FG activation, configural processing of facial expressions and attention to faces in individuals with SCI.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Autism, Social Communication Impairment, magnetice resonance imaging, MRI.
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Michael, Prof. Connor
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mrs Monika Milewska-Fiertek
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-30896
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2018 15:31
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2021 06:58
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.30896
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30896
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