Neural Mechanisms of Emotion Regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorder

J. Anthony Richey, Cara R. Damiano, Antoinette Sabatino, Alison Rittenberg, Chris Petty, Josh Bizzell, James Voyvodic, Aaron S. Heller, Marika C. Coffman, Moria Smoski, Richard J. Davidson, Gabriel S. Dichter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by high rates of comorbid internalizing and externalizing disorders. One mechanistic account of these comorbidities is that ASD is characterized by impaired emotion regulation (ER) that results in deficits modulating emotional responses. We assessed neural activation during cognitive reappraisal of faces in high functioning adults with ASD. Groups did not differ in looking time, pupilometry, or subjective ratings of faces during reappraisal. However, instructions to increase positive and negative emotional responses resulted in less increase in nucleus accumbens and amygdala activations (respectively) in the ASD group, and both regulation instructions resulted in less change in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation in the ASD group. Results suggest a potential mechanistic account of impaired ER in ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3409-3423
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Emotion regulation
  • Eyetracking
  • Nucleus accumbens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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