Autonomic response patterns observed during the performance of an attention-demanding task in two groups of children with autistic-type difficulties in social adjustment

M Althaus*, AM van Roon, CC Aarnoudse, RB Minderaa, Gysbertus Mulder, Lambertus Mulder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Two groups of children with autistic-type behavior problems were compared to a group of normal children with respect to their autonomic response patterns observed during the performance of an attention-demanding task. Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory activity were measured during periods of rest and of task performance. Applying a quantitative model of the baroreflex, we were able to demonstrate qualitative differences among the groups with respect to their vagally controlled response patterns, whereas sympathetic responsiveness did not differ. In terms of our model, the groups with autistic-type behavior showed a decrease in central vagal tone during task performance, while vagal gain appeared to be unaffected or even increased. In contrast, the children in the control group showed the expected pattern of a decrease in vagal gain while vagal tone appeared to be increased. Implications of our findings are discussed in the light of Damasio's somatic marking hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-904
Number of pages12
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume41
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2004

Keywords

  • social adjustment
  • autonomic responsiveness
  • vagal tone
  • vagal and sympathetic gain
  • peripheral feedback
  • PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER
  • OTHERWISE SPECIFIED PDDNOS
  • VAGUS NERVE-STIMULATION
  • HEART-RATE
  • LOCUS-COERULEUS
  • SUSTAINED ATTENTION
  • SPECTRAL-ANALYSIS
  • VISUAL-ATTENTION
  • SYSTEM
  • RESPIRATION

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