Resting and Functional Pupil Response Metrics Indicate Features of Reward Sensitivity and ASD in Children

The current study examined the relationship between quantitative measures of reward and punishment sensitivity, features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and resting and functional pupil response metrics across a clinically heterogeneous sample. Scores on a parent-report measure of punishment and reward sensitivity were correlated with ASD features. We also assessed whether pupil measurements could be used as a physiologic correlate of reward sensitivity and predictor of ASD diagnosis. In a logistic regression model, pupil dilation metrics, sex, and IQ, correctly classified 86.3% of participants as having an ASD diagnosis versus not. This research highlights individual differences of reward sensitivity associated with ASD features. Results support the use of pupil metrics and other patient-level variables as predictors of ASD diagnostic status.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Individual differences; Motivation; Punishment sensitivity; Pupillometry; Reward.