Although individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have impaired responses to interpersonal touch, the underlying neural correlates remain largely unknown. Here, we examined the neural correlates that underlie interpersonal touch perception in individuals with either high or low autistic traits. Fifty-three participants were classified as having either high or low autistic traits based on their performance on the autism quotient (AQ) questionnaire. We hypothesized that individuals with high AQ scores would have relatively high touch hypervigilance, reflected as earlier P1 and stronger late positive potential (LPP) responses, two components of event-related potentials that serve as electrophysiological markers of anxiety bias. We recorded each participant's electroencephalography activity during presentation of images depicting human touch, object touch, and non-touch control images. Consistent with our hypothesis, AQ scores were positively correlated with social touch aversion. Moreover, participants with high AQ scores had earlier P1 and stronger LPP responses when presented with human touch compared to the control images. Importantly, a regression model revealed that earlier P1 and larger LPP amplitude measured during social touch observation can accurately predict higher autistic trait levels. Taken together, these findings indicate that individuals with high levels of autistic traits may have a hypervigilant response to observed social touch. Autism Res 2017, 0: 000–000.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- autistic traits
- interpersonal touch
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (all)
- Clinical Neurology