Effect of propranolol on facial processing in autism spectrum disorder
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social interaction deficits, communication impairments, and restricted, repetitive behaviors. ASD, with estimates of incidence as high as 1 in 88 individuals, has a largely unknown etiology. Pharmacological intervention is currently being explored to improve symptoms of ASD, including those in the social domain. Social interaction deficits in this population may include facial processing abnormalities, such as reduced eye contact, and increased fixation on less socially-salient facial regions, such as the mouth. However, there is variability in the degree of these deficits in the current literature. Additionally, it has been previously hypothesized that stress mediates poor facial processing in individuals with ASD. This pilot study examines the effect of propranolol, a nonselective beta-adrenergic antagonist anxiolytic, on facial processing in individuals with ASD and typically developing controls.