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Journal Article

Early Adversity and Emotion Processing From Faces: A Meta-analysis on Behavioral and Neurophysiological Responses


Tovar-Perdomo,  Santiago
IMPRS Translational Psychiatry, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;

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Saarinen, A., Keltikangas-Jarvinen, L., Jaaskelainen, E., Huhtaniska, S., Pudas, J., Tovar-Perdomo, S., et al. (2021). Early Adversity and Emotion Processing From Faces: A Meta-analysis on Behavioral and Neurophysiological Responses. BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY-COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE AND NEUROIMAGING, 6(7), 692-705. doi:10.1016/j.bpsc.2021.01.002.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-2C90-3
BACKGROUND: Although the link between early adversity (EA) and later-life psychiatric disorders is well established, it has yet to be elucidated whether EA is related to distortions in the processing of different facial expressions. We conducted a meta-analysis to investigate whether exposure to EA relates to distortions in responses to different facial emotions at three levels: 1) event-related potentials of the P100 and N170, 2) amygdala functional magnetic resonance imaging responses, and 3) accuracy rate or reaction time in behavioral data. METHODS: The systematic literature search (PubMed and Web of Science) up to April 2020 resulted in 29 behavioral studies (n = 8555), 32 functional magnetic resonance imaging studies (n = 2771), and 3 electroencephalography studies (n = 197) for random-effect meta-analyses. RESULTS: EA was related to heightened bilateral amygdala reactivity to sad faces (but not other facial emotions). Exposure to EA was related to faster reaction time but a normal accuracy rate in response to angry and sad faces. In response to fearful and happy faces, EA was related to a lower accuracy rate only in individuals with recent EA exposure. This effect was more pronounced in individuals with exposure to EA before (vs. after) the age of 3 years. These findings were independent of psychiatric diagnoses. Because of the low number of eligible electroencephalography studies, no conclusions could be reached regarding the effect of EA on the event-related potentials. CONCLUSIONS: EA relates to alterations in behavioral and neurophysiological processing of facial emotions. Our study stresses the importance of assessing age at exposure and time since EA because these factors mediate some EA-related perturbations.