Conscious and Non-conscious Representations of Emotional Faces in Asperger's Syndrome

Vincent S.C. Chien, Arthur C. Tsai, Han Hsuan Yang, Yi Li Tseng, Alexander N. Savostyanov, Michelle Liou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Several neuroimaging studies have suggested that the low spatial frequency content in an emotional face mainly activates the amygdala, pulvinar, and superior colliculus especially with fearful faces(1-3). These regions constitute the limbic structure in non-conscious perception of emotions and modulate cortical activity either directly or indirectly(2). In contrast, the conscious representation of emotions is more pronounced in the anterior cingulate, prefrontal cortex, and somatosensory cortex for directing voluntary attention to details in faces(3,4). Asperger's syndrome (AS)(5,6) represents an atypical mental disturbance that affects sensory, affective and communicative abilities, without interfering with normal linguistic skills and intellectual ability. Several studies have found that functional deficits in the neural circuitry important for facial emotion recognition can partly explain social communication failure in patients with AS(7-9). In order to clarify the interplay between conscious and non-conscious representations of emotional faces in AS, an EEG experimental protocol is designed with two tasks involving emotionality evaluation of either photograph or line-drawing faces. A pilot study is introduced for selecting face stimuli that minimize the differences in reaction times and scores assigned to facial emotions between the pretested patients with AS and IQ/gender-matched healthy controls. Information from the pretested patients was used to develop the scoring system used for the emotionality evaluation. Research into facial emotions and visual stimuli with different spatial frequency contents has reached discrepant findings depending on the demographic characteristics of participants and task demands(2). The experimental protocol is intended to clarify deficits in patients with AS in processing emotional faces when compared with healthy controls by controlling for factors unrelated to recognition of facial emotions, such as task difficulty, IQ and gender.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Issue number113
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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