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Autistic traits and symptoms of social anxiety are differentially related to attention to others' eyes in Social Anxiety Disorder
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Karolinska Inst, Dept Clin Neurosci, Ctr Psychiat Res, Stockholm, Sweden.; Stockholm Cty Council, Stockholm Hlth Care Serv, Stockholm, Sweden.
Karolinska Inst, Dept Clin Neurosci, Ctr Psychiat Res, Stockholm, Sweden.; Stockholm Cty Council, Stockholm Hlth Care Serv, Stockholm, Sweden.
Karolinska Inst, Dept Womens & Childrens Hlth, Ctr Neurodev Disorders KIND, Stockholm, Sweden.; Stockholm Cty Council, Ctr Psychiat Res, Child & Adolescent Psychiat, Stockholm, Sweden.
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2017 (English)In: Journal of autism and developmental disorders, ISSN 0162-3257, E-ISSN 1573-3432, Vol. 47, no 12, p. 3814-3821Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) have partly overlapping symptoms. Gaze avoidance has been linked to both SAD and ASD, but little is known about differences in social attention between the two conditions. We studied eye movements in a group of treatment-seeking adolescents with SAD (N = 25), assessing SAD and ASD dimensionally. The results indicated a double dissociation between two measures of social attention and the two symptom dimensions. Controlling for social anxiety, elevated autistic traits were associated with delayed orienting to eyes presented among distractors. In contrast, elevated social anxiety levels were associated with faster orienting away from the eyes, when controlling for autistic traits. This distinction deepens our understanding of ASD and SAD.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 47, no 12, p. 3814-3821
Keywords [en]
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD); Social anxiety disorder (SAD); Attention; Eye tracking; Orienting; Avoidance; Gaze avoidance; Broader autism phenotype
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-309282DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-2978-zISI: 000414789400013PubMedID: 28000078OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-309282DiVA, id: diva2:1051686
Available from: 2016-12-02 Created: 2016-12-02 Last updated: 2018-02-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Visual Attention to Faces, Eyes and Objects: Studies of Typically and Atypically Developing Children
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Visual Attention to Faces, Eyes and Objects: Studies of Typically and Atypically Developing Children
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Abstract. The overall aim of this doctoral work is to understand attentional functions in typically developing infants, and in children with two psychiatric conditions: autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). Previous research has shown that attention can be subdivided into a number of interacting functions. Studies I and II examined interactions between two of these, called orienting and phasic alerting. Orienting can be defined as selection of some parts of the surroundings for further processing, and phasic alerting as a short term increase in alertness and arousal that is typically caused by external sensory input. Phasic alerting affects multiple aspects of visual orienting, but these effects are complex and dependent on multiple factors such as age and the nature of the visual environment. In study I, we examined how phasic alerting affects six month old infants’ tendency to orient their gaze to important visual stimuli such as faces and eyes. Phasic alerting was manipulated with brief sounds, and physiological arousal was measured with pupil dilation. Moderate levels of arousal, induced by non-social sounds, facilitated orienting. Study II examined how phasic alerting affects a special form of orienting called visual disengagement. We studied this question in a group of school age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; mean age, 6.5 years). Previous studies have suggested that ASD is associated with atypical visual disengagement, but the literature is inconclusive. Our results suggest that that phasic alerting facilitates disengagement in children with ASD as well as in typically developing children. However, ASD was associated with a general delay in visual disengagement. Study III assessed the overlap between symptoms of ASD and social anxiety disorder (SAD) in terms of visual social attention. Both conditions are associated with atypical attention to other peoples’ eyes. Participants were adolescents with a diagnosis of SAD. We measured the latency to orient to isolated eyes, and the latency to orient away from the eyes once they were fixated. The first measure was related to the level of ASD symptoms, whereas the second measure was related to SAD symptoms. This suggests a double dissociation between symptom dimensions of ASD and ASD in terms of social attention. Together, these studies contribute to our understanding of quick attention processes in typically and atypically developing populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2018. p. 68
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 152
Keywords
Attention; Eye Tracking; Pupil Dilation; Arousal; Social Attention; Gap/Overlap; Autism; Social Anxiety Disorder; Infants; Phasic Alerting
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-342578 (URN)978-91-513-0244-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-04-13, Sal IV, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
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Available from: 2018-03-22 Created: 2018-02-22 Last updated: 2018-04-24

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Kleberg, Johan LundinFalck-Ytter, Terje

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