Gamma Activation in Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically-Developing Controls When Viewing Emotions on Faces

Barry John Debenham Wright, Ben Alderson-Day, Garreth Prendergast, Sophie Bennett, Jo Jordan, Clare Whitton, Andre Gouws, Nick Jones, Ram Attur, Heather Tomlinson, Gary Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Behavioural studies have highlighted irregularities in recognition of facial affect in children and young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Recent findings from studies utilising electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) have identified abnormal activation and irregular maintenance of gamma (>30 Hz) range oscillations when ASD individuals attempt basic visual and auditory tasks.

Methodology/Principal Fndings: The pilot study reported here is the first study to use spatial filtering techniques in MEG to explore face processing in children with ASD. We set out to examine theoretical suggestions that gamma activation underlying face processing may be different in a group of children and young people with ASD (n = 13) compared to typically developing (TD) age, gender and IQ matched controls. Beamforming and virtual electrode techniques were used to assess spatially localised induced and evoked activity. While lower-band (3-30 Hz) responses to faces were similar between groups, the ASD gamma response in occipital areas was observed to be largely absent when viewing emotions on faces. Virtual electrode analysis indicated the presence of intact evoked responses but abnormal induced activity in ASD participants.

Conclusions/Significance: These findings lend weight to previous suggestions that specific components of the early visual response to emotional faces is abnormal in ASD. Elucidation of the nature and specificity of these findings is worthy of further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41326
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Brain Waves
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive
  • Emotions
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition (Psychology)
  • Regression Analysis
  • Temporal Lobe

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