Better fear conditioning is associated with reduced symptom severity in autism spectrum disorders

Academic Article


  • Evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging studies suggest that atypical amygdala function plays a critical role in the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The handful of psychophysiological studies examining amygdala function in ASD using classical fear conditioning paradigms have yielded discordant results. We recorded skin conductance response (SCR) during a simple discrimination conditioning task in 30 children and adolescents (ages 8-18) diagnosed with high-functioning ASD and 30 age- and IQ-matched, typically developing controls. SCR response in the ASD group was uniquely and positively associated with social anxiety; and negatively correlated with autism symptom severity, in particular with social functioning. Fear conditioning studies have tremendous potential to aid understanding regarding the amygdale's role in the varied symptom profile of ASD. Our data demonstrate that such studies require careful attention to task-specific factors, including task complexity; and also to contributions of dimensional, within-group factors that contribute to ASD heterogeneity. © 2011, International Society for Autism Research, Wiley-Liss, Inc.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • South M; Larson MJ; White SE; Dana J; Crowley MJ
  • Start Page

  • 412
  • End Page

  • 421
  • Volume

  • 4
  • Issue

  • 6