International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Visual Attention and Attention Shifting Paradigms: Implications for Social Behavior in Autism and Fragile X Syndrome

Visual Attention and Attention Shifting Paradigms: Implications for Social Behavior in Autism and Fragile X Syndrome

Friday, May 16, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
10:30 AM
R. J. Musci , Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, CA
A. M. Mastergeorge , Human Development and Family Studies, M.I.N.D. Institute, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA
P. Sorenson , M.I.N.D. Institute, Sacramento, CA
C. Day , M.I.N.D. Institute, Sacramento, CA
Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and fragile X syndrome (FXS) are two related disorders that impact both cognitive development and social development. The current study examined differences and similarities between these two groups that have implications for social communication. Utilizing eye tracking paradigms, visual attention and attention shifting in young children with ASD and FXS were examined. Objectives: The purpose of this study is to examine continuities and discontinuities in the way young children with ASD and FXS attend to social stimuli. Understanding trajectories in gaze shifts and attention shifting can further inform our understanding of these disorders. Methods: Twenty six subjects (13=ASD; 13=FXS) were matched for chronological age as well as mental age on the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. They participated in watching a social interaction excerpt from a live action children's movie. The excerpt depicted social interactions among the characters. Eye tracking excerpts were coded and analyzed for location of gaze and shifting patterns. Results: A series of independent t-test analyses demonstrated that overall, young children with ASD do not differ in gaze patterns from those individuals with FXS. There were, however, significant differences in the percentage of time spent viewing the face regions of the characters, with children with FXS spending a more significant percentage of time looking at faces in social contexts. Conclusions: The results from this study suggest that key differences between ASD and FXS may be in face processing outcomes. Further investigations should examine similarities and differences in the ways individuals with ASD and FXS process social stimuli. Implications for understanding how visual attention is related to social processes may impact both diagnosis and treatment of these young children.