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Temporal Profiles of Social Attention Are Different Across Development in Autistic and Neurotypical People


Del Bianco, Teresa; Mason, Luke; Charman, Tony; Tillman, Julian; Loth, Eva; Hayward, Hannah; Shic, Frederick; Buitelaar, Jan; Johnson, Mark H; Jones, Emily J H; EU-AIMS LEAP Group (2021). Temporal Profiles of Social Attention Are Different Across Development in Autistic and Neurotypical People. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 6(8):813-824.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Sociocommunicative difficulties, including abnormalities in eye contact, are core diagnostic features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many studies have used eye tracking to measure reduced attention to faces in autistic people; however, most of this work has not taken advantage of eye-tracking temporal resolution to examine temporal profiles of attention.

METHODS

We used growth curve analysis to model attention to static social scenes as a function of time in a large (N = 650) sample of autistic participants and neurotypical participants across a wide age range (6-30 years).

RESULTS

The model yielded distinct temporal profiles of attention to faces in the groups. Initially, both groups showed a relatively high probability of attending to faces, followed by decline after several seconds. The neurotypical participants, however, were significantly more likely to return their attention to faces in the latter part of each 20-second trial, with increasing probability with age. In contrast, the probability of returning to the face in the autistic participants remained low across development. In participants with ASD, more atypical profiles of attention were associated with lower Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales communication scores and a higher curvature in one data-driven cluster correlated with symptom severity.

CONCLUSIONS

These findings show that social attention not only is reduced in ASD, but also differs in its temporal dynamics. The neurotypical participants became more sophisticated in how they deployed their social attention across age, a pattern that was significantly reduced in the participants with ASD, possibly reflecting delayed acquisition of social expertise.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Sociocommunicative difficulties, including abnormalities in eye contact, are core diagnostic features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many studies have used eye tracking to measure reduced attention to faces in autistic people; however, most of this work has not taken advantage of eye-tracking temporal resolution to examine temporal profiles of attention.

METHODS

We used growth curve analysis to model attention to static social scenes as a function of time in a large (N = 650) sample of autistic participants and neurotypical participants across a wide age range (6-30 years).

RESULTS

The model yielded distinct temporal profiles of attention to faces in the groups. Initially, both groups showed a relatively high probability of attending to faces, followed by decline after several seconds. The neurotypical participants, however, were significantly more likely to return their attention to faces in the latter part of each 20-second trial, with increasing probability with age. In contrast, the probability of returning to the face in the autistic participants remained low across development. In participants with ASD, more atypical profiles of attention were associated with lower Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales communication scores and a higher curvature in one data-driven cluster correlated with symptom severity.

CONCLUSIONS

These findings show that social attention not only is reduced in ASD, but also differs in its temporal dynamics. The neurotypical participants became more sophisticated in how they deployed their social attention across age, a pattern that was significantly reduced in the participants with ASD, possibly reflecting delayed acquisition of social expertise.

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Additional indexing

Contributors:Brandeis, Daniel, et al.
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Health Sciences > Neurology (clinical)
Life Sciences > Biological Psychiatry
Language:English
Date:1 August 2021
Deposited On:16 Dec 2020 09:17
Last Modified:24 May 2024 01:44
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2451-9022
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2020.09.004
PubMed ID:33191160
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)