Reduced differentiation of emotion-associated bodily sensations in autism

Eleanor R. Palser*, Alejandro Galvez-Pol, Clare E. Palmer, Ricci Hannah, Aikaterini Fotopoulou, Elizabeth Pellicano, James M. Kilner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Differences in understanding emotion in autism are well-documented, although far more research has considered how being autistic impacts an understanding of other people’s emotions, compared to their own. In neurotypical adults and children, many emotions are associated with distinct bodily maps of experienced sensation, and the ability to report these maps is significantly related to the awareness of interoceptive signals. Here, in 100 children who either carry a clinical diagnosis of autism (n = 45) or who have no history of autism (n = 55), we investigated potential differences in differentiation across autistic children’s bodily maps of emotion, as well as how such differentiation relates to the processing of interoceptive signals. As such, we measured objective interoceptive performance using the heartbeat-counting task, and participants’ subjective experience of interoceptive signals using the child version of the Body Perception Questionnaire. We found less differentiation in the bodily maps of emotion in autistic children, but no association with either objective or subjective interoceptive processing. These findings suggest that, in addition to previously reported differences in detecting others’ emotional states, autistic children have a less differentiated bodily experience of emotion. This does not, however, relate to differences in interoceptive perception as measured here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321–1334
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • autism
  • emotion
  • interoception


Dive into the research topics of 'Reduced differentiation of emotion-associated bodily sensations in autism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this