Behavioral and physiological differences during an emotion-evoking task in children at increased likelihood for autism spectrum disorder
Literature examining emotional regulation in infants with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has focused on parent report. We examined behavioral and physiological responses during an emotion-evoking task designed to elicit emotional states in infants. Infants at an increased likelihood for ASD (IL; have an older sibling with ASD; 96 not classified; 29 classified with ASD at age two) and low likelihood (LL; no family history of ASD; n = 61) completed the task at 6, 12, and 18 months. The main findings were (1) the IL-ASD group displayed higher levels of negative affect during toy removal and negative tasks compared to the IL non-ASD and LL groups, respectively, (2) the IL-ASD group spent more time looking at the baseline task compared to the other two groups, and (3) the IL-ASD group showed a greater increase in heart rate from baseline during the toy removal and negative tasks compared to the LL group. These results suggest that IL children who are classified as ASD at 24 months show differences in affect, gaze, and heart rate during an emotion-evoking task, with potential implications for understanding mechanisms related to emerging ASD.
Keywords: ASD; affect; autism; baby sibling; gaze; heart rate; physiology.