Klin A, Lin DJ, Gorrindo P, Ramsay G, Jones W. Two-year-olds with autism orient to non-social contingencies rather than biological motion. Nature 459: 257-261

Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06519-1124, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 04/2009; 459(7244):257-61. DOI: 10.1038/nature07868
Source: PubMed


Typically developing human infants preferentially attend to biological motion within the first days of life. This ability is highly conserved across species and is believed to be critical for filial attachment and for detection of predators. The neural underpinnings of biological motion perception are overlapping with brain regions involved in perception of basic social signals such as facial expression and gaze direction, and preferential attention to biological motion is seen as a precursor to the capacity for attributing intentions to others. However, in a serendipitous observation, we recently found that an infant with autism failed to recognize point-light displays of biological motion, but was instead highly sensitive to the presence of a non-social, physical contingency that occurred within the stimuli by chance. This observation raised the possibility that perception of biological motion may be altered in children with autism from a very early age, with cascading consequences for both social development and the lifelong impairments in social interaction that are a hallmark of autism spectrum disorders. Here we show that two-year-olds with autism fail to orient towards point-light displays of biological motion, and their viewing behaviour when watching these point-light displays can be explained instead as a response to non-social, physical contingencies--physical contingencies that are disregarded by control children. This observation has far-reaching implications for understanding the altered neurodevelopmental trajectory of brain specialization in autism.

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Available from: Ami Klin, Dec 09, 2014
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    • "Considered as a neurodevelopmental condition on the opposing social spectrum, ASD is associated with increased social withdrawal, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, poor social reciprocity, and reduced use of empathetic gestures (APA, 2000; Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004; Charman et al., 1997; Lord et al., 2000). In contrast to WS, those with ASD are consistently documented to exhibit reduced social orientation coupled with heightened attention toward non-social stimuli when compared to TD individuals and other developmental Downloaded by [] at 21:05 08 August 2015 A c c e p t e d M a n u s c r i p t 4 disorders (i.e., individuals with Down syndrome or non-ASD developmental delays)(Dawson et al.; 1998; Klin et al., 2009; Swettenham et al., 1998). An eye-tracking study by Riby and Hancock (2009) examined face gaze patterns of individuals with ASD and WS in comparison to TD peers matched on nonverbal ability. "
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    ABSTRACT: Williams syndrome (WS) is a genetic condition characterized by an overly gregarious personality, including high empathetic concern for others. Although seemingly disparate from the profile of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), both are associated with deficits in social communication/cognition. Notably, the mirror neuron system (MNS) has been implicated in social dysfunction for ASD; yet, the integrity of this network and its association with social functioning in WS remains unknown. Magnetic resonance imaging methods were used to examine the structural integrity of the MNS of adults with WS versus typically developing (TD) individuals. The Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), a tool typically used to screen for social features of ASD, was also employed to assess the relationships between social functioning with the MNS morphology in WS participants. WS individuals showed reduced cortical surface area of MNS substrates yet relatively preserved cortical thickness as compared to TD adults. Increased cortical thickness of the inferior parietal lobule was associated with increased deficits in social communication, social awareness, social cognition, and autistic mannerisms. However, social motivation was not related to anatomical features of the MNS. Our findings indicate that social deficits typical to both ASD and WS may be attributed to an aberrant MNS, whereas the unusual social drive marked in WS is subserved by substrates distinct from this network.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Social neuroscience
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    • "However, these studies adopted common objects (e.g., color) and not BM as stimuli. While there is abundant literature on BM perception deficits in ASD (e.g., Blake et al., 2003; Klin et al., 2009; Van Boxtel & Lu, 2013), no study has examined WM mechanisms involved in BM information in clinical populations. For example, it may be the case that WM for BM is specifically impaired in patients with known social deficits (e.g., autism, schizophrenia), but is elevated in patients with social anxiety disorder who in some cases have been shown to pay more attention to social stimuli (e.g., Mogg & Bradley, 2002). "
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    ABSTRACT: Working memory (WM) and empathy are core issues in cognitive and social science, respectively. However, no study so far has explored the relationship between these two constructs. Considering that empathy takes place based on the others' observed experiences, which requires extracting the observed dynamic scene into WM and forming a coherent representation, we hypothesized that a sub-type of WM capacity, i.e., WM for biological movements (BM), should predict one's empathy level. Therefore, WM capacity was measured for three distinct types of stimuli in a change detection task: BM of human beings (BM; Experiment 1), movements of rectangles (Experiment 2), and static colors (Experiment 3). The first two stimuli were dynamic and shared one WM buffer which differed from the WM buffer for colors; yet only the BM conveyed social information. We found that BM-WM capacity was positively correlated with both cognitive and emotional empathy, with no such correlations for WM capacity of movements of rectangles or of colors. Thus, the current study is the first to provide evidence linking a specific buffer of WM and empathy, and highlights the necessity for considering different WM capacities in future social and clinical research.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
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    • "Lost opportunities to develop social brain in ASD The infant who is developing ASD attends to AV synchrony over biological motion [87], mouth over eyes [89] (likely because of synchrony ), mechanical speech over infant-directed speech [76], and has no preference for faces over objects [75]. The non-social neural pathways confound face and speech processing. "
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    ABSTRACT: Earliest identifiable findings in autism indicate that the autistic brain develops differently from the typical brain in the first year of life, after a period of typical development. Twin studies suggest that autism has an environmental component contributing to causation. Increased availability of audiovisual (AV) materials and viewing practices of infants parallel the time frame of the rise in prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studies have shown an association between ASD and increased TV/cable screen exposure in infancy, suggesting AV exposure in infancy as a possible contributing cause of ASD. Infants are attracted to the saliency of AV materials, yet do not have the experience to recognize these stimuli as socially relevant. The authors present a developmental model of autism in which exposure to screen-based AV input in genetically susceptible infants stimulates specialization of non-social sensory processing in the brain. Through a process of neuroplasticity, the autistic infant develops the skills that are driven by the AV viewing. The AV developed neuronal pathways compete with preference for social processing, negatively affecting development of social brain pathways and causing global developmental delay. This model explains atypical face and speech processing, as well as preference for AV synchrony over biological motion in ASD. Neural hyper-connectivity, enlarged brain size and special abilities in visual, auditory and motion processing in ASD are also explained by the model. Positive effects of early intervention are predicted by the model. Researchers studying causation of autism have largely overlooked AV exposure in infancy as a potential contributing factor. The authors call for increased public awareness of the association between early screen viewing and ASD, and a concerted research effort to determine the extent of causal relationship. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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