Cry, Baby, Cry: Expression of Distress As a Biomarker and Modulator in Autism Spectrum Disorder
This study used fMRI to measure brain activity during adult processing of cries of infants with autistic disorder (AD) compared to cries of typically developing (TD) infants. Using whole brain analysis, we found that cries of infants with AD compared to those of TD infants elicited enhanced activity in brain regions associated with verbal and prosodic processing, perhaps because altered acoustic patterns of AD cries render them especially difficult to interpret, and increased activity in brain regions associated with emotional processing, indicating that AD cries also elicit more negative feelings and may be perceived as more aversive and/or arousing. Perceived distress engendered by AD cries related to increased activation in brain regions associated with emotional processing. This study supports the hypothesis that cry is an early and meaningful anomaly displayed by children with AD. It could be that cries associated with AD alter parent-child interactions much earlier than the time that reliable AD diagnosis normally occurs.