Absence of Preferential Looking to the Eyes of Approaching Adults Predicts Level of Social Disability in 2-Year-Old Toddlers With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, 230 S Frontage Rd, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
Archives of general psychiatry (Impact Factor: 14.48). 08/2008; 65(8):946-54. DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.65.8.946
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Within the first week of life, typical human newborns give preferential attention to the eyes of others. Similar findings in other species suggest that attention to the eyes is a highly conserved phylogenetic mechanism of social development. For children with autism, however, diminished and aberrant eye contact is a lifelong hallmark of disability.
To quantify preferential attention to the eyes of others at what is presently the earliest point of diagnosis in autism.
We presented the children with 10 videos. Each video showed an actress looking directly into the camera, playing the role of caregiver, and engaging the viewer (playing pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, etc). Children's visual fixation patterns were measured by eye tracking.
Fifteen 2-year-old children with autism were compared with 36 typically developing children and with 15 developmentally delayed but nonautistic children.
Preferential attention was measured as percentage of visual fixation time to 4 regions of interest: eyes, mouth, body, and object. Level of social disability was assessed by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.
Looking at the eyes of others was significantly decreased in 2-year-old children with autism (P < .001), while looking at mouths was increased (P < .01) in comparison with both control groups. The 2 control groups were not distinguishable on the basis of fixation patterns. In addition, fixation on eyes by the children with autism correlated with their level of social disability; less fixation on eyes predicted greater social disability (r = -0.669, P < .01).
Looking at the eyes of others is important in early social development and in social adaptation throughout one's life span. Our results indicate that in 2-year-old children with autism, this behavior is already derailed, suggesting critical consequences for development but also offering a potential biomarker for quantifying syndrome manifestation at this early age.

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Available from: Ami Klin, Dec 09, 2014
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    • "Yet, studies reported inconsistent results: Klin et al.'s (2002b) initial report that adolescents and adults tended to focus more on the mouth and less on the eyes than typical controls has only been partly confirmed (Speer et al., 2007; Norbury et al., 2009). Jones et al. (2008) showed that fixation times on the eyes were reduced in toddlers with ASD, but more recent studies failed to reproduce this finding (Nakano et al., 2010; Chawarska et al., 2013). The most consistent discriminating measure between ASD and typical participants appears to be the fixation times on faces (Riby and Hancock, 2009; von Hofsten et al., 2009; Grynszpan et al., 2012a; Rice et al., 2012; Chawarska et al., 2013; Magrelli et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study illustrates the potential advantages of an eye-tracking method for exploring the association between visual scanning of faces and inferences of mental states. Participants watched short videos involving social interactions and had to explain what they had seen. The number of cognition verbs (e.g. think, believe, know) in their answers were counted. Given the possible use of peripheral vision that could confound eye-tracking measures, we added a condition using a gaze-contingent viewing window: the entire visual display is blurred, expect for an area that moves with the participant’s gaze. Eleven typical adults and eleven high functioning adults with ASD were recruited. The condition employing the viewing window yielded strong correlations between the average duration of fixations, the ratio of cognition verbs and standard measures of social disabilities.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2015; 8. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.01067 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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    • "Finally, tracking of eye movement using infrared cameras has revealed a range of differences in the way visual attention is deployed in young children with autism (e.g. Chawarska and Shic 2009; Falck-Ytter et al. 2013a, b, c; Jones et al. 2008; Klin et al. 2009; Swanson and Siller 2013). Whilst neuroimaging and psychophysiological techniques have become increasingly child-friendly over time, the unusual sensory behaviours and difficulties in social communication and restricted and stereotyped behavioural patterns of ASD can pose significant challenges to investigators using these techniques . "
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding neurocognitive mechanisms in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an essential goal of autism research. Studying young children with ASD or other neurodevelopmental conditions in demanding experimental settings, however, can pose many practical and ethical challenges. In this article, we present practical strategies that facilitate data acquisition from psychophysiological experiments involving young children with ASD. We focus on a range of common, non-invasive technologies including EEG, MEG, eye tracking as well as some common measures of physiological arousal. Topics have been divided according to the chronological order of the experimental procedure: (a) design, (b) preparing for the measurement visit, (c) conducting the experiment and (d) the data handling. A key theme in the proposed guidelines is the difficulty in balancing the procedural adaptations necessary to facilitate participation of children with ASD, and maintaining standardisation for all participating children.
    12/2014; 1(4):373-386. DOI:10.1007/s40489-014-0034-5
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    • "Thus, we aimed to examine the magnitude of the other-race effect in ASD and TD children with optimal stimulus manipulations. Second, We examined whether ASD children's limitation in discriminating faces of own-and other-race is related to an insensitivity to eyes for it is reported that eyes are the most important features for recognizing identity and other attributes such as emotion, age, and gender (Emery, 2000; Whalen, Kagan, Cook, Davis, & Kim, 2004; Itier & Batty, 2009), and that individuals with ASD spend less time looking at the eyes and more time looking at the mouth than individuals without ASD (Klin et al., 2002; Dalton, Nacewicz, Johnstone, Schaefer, & Gernsbacher, 2005; Jones, Carr, & Klin, 2008; Riby & Hancock, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: The characteristics of aberrant face processing in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been extensively studied, but the aspect regarding sensitivity to race is relatively unexplored. The present study hypothesized that the magnitude of the other-race effect shall be reduced in individuals with ASD owing to their inattention to faces since infancy. Using a sequential face discrimination task, we tested the other-race effect of 18 ASD (mean age = 7.5 years) and 13 age-matched typically developing (TD) children (mean age = 7.6 years). The stimuli were cropped Asian and African faces, each with four levels of difficulty: easy (change identity), medium (replaced eyes), hard-eye (widen eye spacing), and hard-mouth (moved up mouth). The TD children showed a significant own-race advantage such that the best performance was found in the Asian easy condition. The ASD children did not exhibit such advantage at all. Moreover, ASD children showed the highest error rates in the hard-eye condition instead of the hard-mouth condition, indicating insensitivity to eyes region. In sum, our findings support the hypothesis that the other-race effect is reduced in ASD children, reflecting an incomplete development of an expert face system.
    Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 09/2014; 8(11):1544-1551. DOI:10.1016/j.rasd.2014.08.005 · 2.96 Impact Factor
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