Brief Report: Circumscribed Attention in Young Children with Autism

School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, GR41 800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, TX 75080, USA.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.06). 05/2010; 41(2):242-7. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-010-1038-3
Source: PubMed


School-aged children and adolescents with autism demonstrate circumscribed attentional patterns to nonsocial aspects of complex visual arrays (Sasson et al. 2008). The current study downward extended these findings to a sample of 2-5 year-olds with autism and 2-5 year-old typically developing children. Eye-tracking was used to quantify discrete aspects of visual attention to picture arrays containing combinations of social pictures, pictures of objects frequently involved in circumscribed interests in persons with autism (e.g., trains), and pictures of more commonplace objects (e.g., clothing). The children with autism exhibited greater exploration and perseverative attention on objects related to circumscribed interests than did typically developing children. Results suggest that circumscribed attention may be an early emerging characteristic of autism.

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Available from: Gabriel Dichter, Jan 13, 2014
    • "When comparing social versus non-social stimuli, individuals with autism show reduced attention to faces as well as to other social stimuli such as the human voice and hand gestures but pay more attention to non-social objects (Dawson et al., 2005; Sasson et al., 2011), notably including gadgets, devices , vehicles, electronics, and other objects of idiosyncratic ''special interest'' (Kanner, 1943; South et al., 2005). Such atypical preferences are already evident early in infancy (Osterling and Dawson, 1994), and the circumscribed attentional patterns in eye tracking data can be found in 2–5 year olds (Sasson et al., 2011), as well as in children and adolescents (Sasson et al., 2008). Several possibly related attentional differences are reported in children with ASD as well, including reduced social and joint attention behaviors (Osterling and Dawson, 1994) and orienting driven more by non-social contingencies rather than biological motion (Klin et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Summary The social difficulties that are a hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are thought to arise, at least in part, from atypical attention toward stimuli and their features. To investigate this hypothesis comprehensively, we characterized 700 complex natural scene images with a novel three-layered saliency model that incorporated pixel-level (e.g., contrast), object-level (e.g., shape), and semantic-level attributes (e.g., faces) on 5,551 annotated objects. Compared with matched controls, people with ASD had a stronger image center bias regardless of object distribution, reduced saliency for faces and for locations indicated by social gaze, and yet a general increase in pixel-level saliency at the expense of semantic-level saliency. These results were further corroborated by direct analysis of fixation characteristics and investigation of feature interactions. Our results for the first time quantify atypical visual attention in ASD across multiple levels and categories of objects.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Neuron
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    • " in the Appendix of Dichter et al . , 2012a ) . These images were derived from categories of common restricted interests in ASD ( South et al . , 2005 ) , have been shown to differentially activate brain reward circuitry in ASD ( Dichter et al . , 2012a ) , to elicit great visual attention in children and adults with ASD in eyetracking paradigms ( Sasson et al . , 2011 , 2008 ) , and rated as more pleasing by individuals with ASD ( Sasson et al . , 2012 ) . These stimuli are referred to here as high autism interest ( HAI ) stimuli . We note that , although the DSM defines restricted interests to be idiosyncratic and person - specific , and although idiosyncratic restricted interests have been used in "
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    ABSTRACT: An econometric choice task was used to estimate the implicit reward value of social and non-social stimuli related to restricted interests in children and adolescents with (n = 12) and without (n = 22) autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Mixed effects logistic regression analyses revealed that groups differed in valuation of images related to restricted interests: control children were indifferent to cash payouts to view these images, but children with ASD were willing to receive less cash payout to view these images. Groups did not differ in valuation of social images or non-social images not related to restricted interests. Results highlight that motivational accounts of ASD should also consider the reward value of non-social stimuli related to restricted interests in ASD (Dichter and Adolphs, 2012).
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "The present results connect three ‘dots' in the literature 1) that the LC-NE system is a modulator of attentional state and consequently task performance, 2) that the LC-NE system has been implicated in ASD etiology, and 3) that the clinical profile of ASD includes intense attentional focus as well as resistance to disengagement to certain classes of stimuli42 that may be related to restricted behaviors and interests43. In a recent review of the literature of visual search and ASD11, we do find evidence for perceptual differences at play. "
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    ABSTRACT: Research on the neural underpinnings of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focussed primarily on impairments of social interaction and communication. Less is known though about the second diagnostic criterion of restricted behaviors and interests. Uniquely in this domain, alongside impairments stands an 'ASD advantage' characterised by superior performance on many visual tasks. We recently found that 2-year-olds with ASD dramatically outperform age-matched, typically developing controls on visual search. Here we use task-evoked, phasic pupil responses - a sensitive, involuntary measure of effort and a biomarker of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system's modulation of attention - to isolate a causal factor: a 'hyperphasic' LC-NE system compels (here, advantageously) focussed attention. However, this focussed attention in other contexts may contribute to restricted behaviors and interests.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Scientific Reports
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