- About ASF
- What is Autism?
- How Common is Autism?
- Early Signs of Autism
- Autism Diagnosis
- Following a Diagnosis
- Treatment Options
- Beware of Non-Evidence-Based Treatments
- Statement on Use of Medical Marijuana for People with Autism
- Autism and Vaccines
- Autism Science
- Quick Facts About Autism
- What We Fund
- Autism Sisters Project
- Baby Siblings Research Consortium
- Resources for Grantees
- Funding Calendar
- ASF Funded Research
- ASF Supported Findings
- Apply for a Fellowship
- Apply for a Research Accelerator Grant
- Apply for an Undergraduate Summer Research Grant
- Get Involved
- Day of Learning
- Year End Summaries
- Contact Us
Research by Topic: Eye Tracking
Due to the fact that many people with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty holding eye contact during face to face interaction, these people can miss out on important non-verbal cues during this interaction. The study also found that most people, whether typically- or non-typically developing, have difficulty holding eye contact when thinking, such as if asked to answer a challenging math problem.
A small study sampling 52 patients with autism found that eye problems, such as crossed eyes and lazy eyes, are common in children with autism.
Effects of Increased Development in Peripheral Vision on Children with Autism’s Reduced Ability to Make Eye ContactPublished May 22, 2013 in The European Journal of Neuroscience
In this study, children with ASD showed higher activity in the periphery of their visual field as compared to children without ASD. This higher activity and dependency on their peripheral vision could be explained by reduced ability early in life to control their eye movements.
Decreased Spontaneous Attention to Social Scenes in 6-Month-Old Infants Later Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum DisordersPublished January 14, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry
Yale researchers used eye-tracking technology to examine social monitoring skills of infants at high and low risk for autism. Compared to infants who developed typically, six-month olds later diagnosed with ASD looked less at the social scene, which involved a woman engaged in various activities. When they did attend to the social scene, they spent less time viewing the womans face.
Results from this preliminary study suggest that an interactive virtual reality game can improve social communication skills in teens with ASD.
Portable Intermodal Preferential Looking (IPL): Investigating Language Comprehension in Typically Developing Toddlers and Young Children with Autism.Published December 14, 2012 in PubMed
Researchers at UCONN have developed an intermodel preferential looking assessment that relies on the child’s attention, rather than verbal or gestural responses, to evaluate language comprehension.
Precursors to Social and Communication Difficulties in Infants At-Risk for Autism: Gaze Following and Attentional EngagementPublished October 1, 2012 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
“Whilst joint attention (JA) impairments in autism have been widely studied, little is known about the early development of gaze following, a precursor to establishing JA. We employed eye-tracking to record gaze following longitudinally in infants with and without a family history of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 7 and 13 months. No group difference was found between at-risk and low-risk infants in gaze following behaviour at either age. However, despite following gaze successfully at 13 months, at-risk infants with later emerging socio-communication difficulties (both those with ASD and atypical development at 36 months of age) allocated less attention to the congruent object compared to typically developing at-risk siblings and low-risk controls. The findings suggest that the subtle emergence of difficulties in JA in infancy may be related to ASD and other atypical outcomes.”
Researchers at Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London are finding that some studies have suggested that people with autism have deficits in executive function, a set of complex mental processes involved in everyday life. But these results may instead reflect their difficulties imagining what other people are thinking.
“Reduced focus toward the eyes is a characteristic of atypical gaze on emotional faces in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Along with the atypical gaze, aberrant amygdala activity during face processing compared with neurotypically developed (NT) participants has been repeatedly reported in ASD. It remains unclear whether the previously reported dysfunctional amygdalar response patterns in ASD support an active avoidance of direct eye contact or rather a lack of social attention. Using a recently introduced emotion classification task, we investigated eye movements and changes in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal in the amygdala with a 3T MRI scanner in 16 autistic and 17 control adult human participants. By modulating the initial fixation position on faces, we investigated changes triggered by the eyes compared with the mouth. Between-group interaction effects revealed different patterns of gaze and amygdalar BOLD changes in ASD and NT: Individuals with ASD gazed more often away from than toward the eyes, compared with the NT group, which showed the reversed tendency. An interaction contrast of group and initial fixation position further yielded a significant cluster of amygdala activity. Extracted parameter estimates showed greater response to eyes fixation in ASD, whereas the NT group showed an increase for mouth fixation. The differing patterns of amygdala activity in combination with differing patterns of gaze behavior between groups triggered by direct eye contact and mouth fixation, suggest a dysfunctional profile of the amygdala in ASD involving an interplay of both eye-avoidance processing and reduced orientation.”
New study using eye-tracking and event-related potentials from Children’s Hospital Boston found that individuals with ASD showed atypical emotional face processing and reduced brain activation in response to emotions.
“The language difficulties often seen in individuals with autism might stem from an inability to integrate audiovisual information, a skill important for language development. We investigated whether 9-month-old siblings of older children with autism, who are at an increased risk of developing autism, are able to integrate audiovisual speech cues.”
Katherine Rice and colleagues, from the Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory University School of Medicine, used eye-tracking technology to measure the relationship between cognitive and social disability in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and the ability of children with ASD to pay attention to social interactions.
“Autism spectrum disorders (henceforth autism) are diagnosed in around 1% of the population . Familial liability confers risk for a broad spectrum of difficulties including the broader autism phenotype (BAP) [2, 3]. There are currently no reliable predictors of autism in infancy, but characteristic behaviors emerge during the second year, enabling diagnosis after this age [4, 5]. Because indicators of brain functioning may be sensitive predictors, and atypical eye contact is characteristic of the syndrome [6-9] and the BAP [10, 11], we examined whether neural sensitivity to eye gaze during infancy is associated with later autism outcomes [12, 13]. We undertook a prospective longitudinal study of infants with and without familial risk for autism. At 6-10 months, we recorded infants’ event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to viewing faces with eye gaze directed toward versus away from the infant . Longitudinal analyses showed that characteristics of ERP components evoked in response to dynamic eye gaze shifts during infancy were associated with autism diagnosed at 36 months. ERP responses to eye gaze may help characterize developmental processes that lead to later emerging autism. Findings also elucidate the mechanisms driving the development of the social brain in infancy.”
Research just released shows that scientists are finding new tools to help understand neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and fragile X syndrome.
In a study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, a team of scientists from the University’s School of Psychology show that eye contact seems to act as an invitation for mimicry, triggering mechanisms in the frontal region of the brain that control imitation. The results could be the first clues to understanding why some people, such as children with autism, struggle to grasp when they are expected to copy the actions of others in social situations.
Research in computer graphics and computer vision tries to make using computers easier. We can find a more comfortable, intuitive and intelligent way to use the computer that feels like you’re talking to a friend. This could also help disabled people use computers the way everyone else does.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego found that a preference for geometric patterns early in life may be a novel and easily detectable early signature of infants and toddlers at risk for autism. One hundred ten toddlers were presented with a one-minute movie depicting moving geometric patterns on one side of a video […]
Eye-tracking study reveals that a toddler’s infatuation with geometric patterns instead of social interactions such as dancing, jumping and smiling could be an early sign of autism.
Kennedy Krieger Institute have announced new study results showing an early marker for later communication and social delays in infants at a higher-risk for autism may be infrequent gazing at other people when unprompted. The study also found that six-month-old high-risk infants demonstrated the same level of cause and effect learning skills when compared to low-risk infants of the same age.
The researchers tracked eye movements and blinks in 41 2-year-olds with autism and 52 healthy controls while the children watched a short movie of two toddlers on a playground. Both groups on average blinked about five times per minute. But they differed significantly in how their blinking lined up with the content of the movie.Healthy toddlers refrained from blinking as they watched scenes with high emotional content, such as when the toddler-actors fought about a toy. Toddlers with autism, in contrast, were just as likely to blink during emotional scenes as during dull ones.
A study of the development of autism in infants, comparing the behavior of the siblings of children diagnosed with autism to that of babies developing normally, has found that the nascent symptoms of the condition — a lack of shared eye contact, smiling and communicative babbling — are not present at 6 months, but emerge gradually and only become apparent during the latter part of the first year of life.
Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston studying the science of how babies read facial expressions say they’re hoping their results will prove useful for autism and developmental research. Scientists at Harvard believe emotion detection is so crucial in everyday life that they’re willing to cajole babies into an electrode “net” to see how to see how humans first learn to read faces.
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 […]
Absence of Preferential Looking to the Eyes of Approaching Adults Predicts Level of Social Disability in 2-year old toddlers with Autism Spectrum DisorderPublished August 31, 2008 in Archives of General Psychiatry, Jones, Carr, et al
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.