People who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) commonly disclose that they aren’t comfortable looking into the eyes of other people. They claim that “it burns” and that it makes them feel extremely disturbed.

Does this affect them socially?

Common theoretical records of ASD assume that they feel insignificant to other people, which explain why they experience interpersonal troubles, including difficulties making eye contact. However, firsthand accounts from individuals who do have ASD reveal that the primary issue could be socio-affective oversensitivity.

Others even suggested that they might have an active amygdala that could lead to an excruciatingly extreme social world. As of now, though, the data regarding this important matter is incomplete and varied. For example, some even disclosed that others see them as passive and socially insensitive, especially for two year old kids who have ASD.

Why is it, exactly?

People who have ASD have trouble making eye contact, but no one still understands the real reason for their behavior. The subcortical pathway that includes the amygdala, superior colliculus and pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus generates automatic and rapid face processing. The researchers used functional MRI to examine the impact of constraining stare in the region of the eye throughout active emotional face perception in teams of participants who have common controls and ASD. They calculated the variations in the subcortical face processing system’s activation for similar stimuli observed freely or with the constrained stare in the eye-region.

The findings reveal that when people with ASD are forced to look into others’ eyes, they inhibit an abnormally high activation in their subcortical system. This may be the reason why they tend to avoid eye contact in their everyday life.

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