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Interoceptive awareness mitigates deficits in emotional prosody recognition in Autism

ABSTRACT

The sensing of internal bodily signals, a process known as interoception, contributes to subjective emotional feeling states that can guide empathic understanding of the emotions of others. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) typically show an attenuated intuitive capacity to recognise and interpret other peoples’ emotional signals. Here we test directly if differences in interoceptive processing relate to the ability to perceive emotional signals from the intonation of speech (affective prosody) in ASC adults. We employed a novel prosody paradigm to compare emotional prosody recognition in ASC individuals and a group of neurotypical controls. Then, in a larger group of ASC individuals, we tested how recognition of affective prosody related to objective, subjective and metacognitive (awareness) psychological dimensions of interoception. ASC individuals showed reduced recognition of affective prosody compared to controls. Deficits in performance on the prosody task were mitigated by greater interoceptive awareness, so that ASC individuals were better able to judge the prosodic emotion if they had better insight into their own interoceptive abilities. This data links the ability to access interoceptive representations consciously to the recognition of emotional expression in others, suggesting a crossmodal target for interventions to enhance interpersonal skills.



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