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Brief Research Report ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00654

Examining the association between electrodermal activity and problem behavior in severe autism spectrum disorder: A feasibility study

  • 1University of Missouri, United States
  • 2Independent researcher, United States
  • 3Calspan-University of Buffalo Research Center (CUBRC), United States
  • 4University at Buffalo, United States

Background: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) engage in problem behavior, presenting significant challenges for those providing care and services for this population. Psychophysiological measures of arousal, such as electrodermal activity (EDA), may provide an early indication of subsequent problem behavior. However, variability in EDA patterns associated with behaviors may limit this predictive ability.

Methods: EDA data was sampled from 8 individuals with severe ASD in a naturalistic setting, while participating in educational programming in a school setting at a residential facility for severely affected individuals with developmental disabilities, to examine variability in EDA patterns.

Results: An anticipatory rise in EDA only occurred 60% of the time prior to the problem behavior. Additionally, EDA after a problem behavior returned to median baseline levels only 45% of the time.

Conclusions: Heterogeneity of EDA responses in those with the most severe forms of ASD will be an important consideration in future studies utilizing psychophysiological tools such as EDA to anticipate problem behavior, including the need for monitoring of return to baseline after problem behaviors. Incorporation of this consideration may lead to greater reliability of these approaches to help anticipate and manage problem behaviors.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Electrodermal activity (EDA), Problem behavior, stress, Psychophyisology

Received: 01 Jul 2019; Accepted: 14 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Manuel F. Casanova, School of Medicine Greenville, University of South Carolina, United States

Reviewed by:

Estate M. Sokhadze, University of South Carolina, United States
Azadeh Kushki, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Canada  

Copyright: © 2019 Ferguson, Hamlin, Lantz, Villavicencio, Beversdorf and Coles. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: MD. David Q. Beversdorf, University of Missouri, Columbia, 65211, Missouri, United States,