Subnormal short‐latency facial mimicry responses to dynamic emotional facial expressions in male adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders and callous‐unemotional traits

Anton van Boxtel*, R. Zaalberg, M. de Wied

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Using still pictures of emotional facial expressions as experimental stimuli, reduced amygdala responses or impaired recognition of basic emotions were repeatedly found in people with psychopathic traits. The amygdala also plays an important role in short-latency facial mimicry responses. Since dynamic emotional facial expressions may have higher ecological validity than still pictures, we compared short-latency facial mimicry responses to dynamic and static emotional expressions between adolescents with psychopathic traits and normal controls. Facial EMG responses to videos or still pictures of emotional expressions (happiness, anger, sadness, fear) were measured. Responses to 500-ms dynamic expressions in videos, as well as the subsequent 1500-ms phase of maximal (i.e., static) expression, were compared between male adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders and high (n = 14) or low (n = 17) callous-unemotional (CU) traits, and normal control subjects (n = 32). Responses to still pictures were also compared between groups. EMG responses to dynamic expressions were generally significantly smaller in the high-CU group than in the other two groups, which generally did not differ. These group differences gradually emerged during the 500-ms stimulus presentation period but in general they were already seen a few hundred milliseconds after stimulus onset. Group differences were absent during the 1500-ms phase of maximal expression and during exposure to still pictures. Subnormal short-latency mimicry responses to dynamic emotional facial expressions in the high-CU group might have negative consequences for understanding emotional facial expressions of others during daily life when human facial interactions are primarily dynamic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13945
Number of pages16
JournalPsychophysiology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • CONDUCT PROBLEMS
  • EARLY-ONSET
  • EMG
  • EMG ACTIVITY
  • FACES
  • FEARFUL EXPRESSIONS
  • HUMAN AMYGDALA
  • NEURAL ACTIVITY
  • PERIAQUEDUCTAL GRAY
  • PSYCHOPATHIC TRAITS
  • RECOGNITION DEFICITS
  • callous-unemotional traits
  • disruptive behavior disorders
  • emotional facial expressions
  • facial mimicry

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