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: 13.75). 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.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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 · 2.90 Impact Factor
  • Source
    12/2014; 1(4):373-386. DOI:10.1007/s40489-014-0034-5
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Limited accuracy and speed in facial recognition (FR) and in the identification of facial emotions (IFE) have been shown in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This study aimed at evaluating the predictive value of atypicalities in FR and IFE for future symptom severity in children with ASD. Therefore we performed a seven-year follow-up study in 87 children with ASD. FR and IFE were assessed in childhood (T1: age 6-12) using the Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks (ANT). Symptom severity was assessed using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) in childhood and again seven years later during adolescence (T2: age 12-19). Multiple regression analyses were performed to investigate whether FR and IFE in childhood predicted ASD symptom severity in adolescence, while controlling for ASD symptom severity in childhood. We found that more accurate FR significantly predicted lower adolescent ASD symptom severity scores (ΔR(2) = .09), even when controlling for childhood ASD symptom severity. IFE was not a significant predictor of ASD symptom severity in adolescence. From these results it can be concluded, that in children with ASD the accuracy of FR in childhood is a relevant predictor of ASD symptom severity in adolescence. Test results on FR in children with ASD may have prognostic value regarding later symptom severity. Autism Res 2015. © 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Autism Research 01/2015; DOI:10.1002/aur.1443 · 4.53 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
Dec 9, 2014