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Reduced alternating gaze during social interaction in infancy is associated with elevated symptoms of autism in toddlerhood
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3046-0043
Karolinska institutet.
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2017 (English)In: Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, ISSN 0091-0627, E-ISSN 1573-2835Article in journal (Refereed) In press
Abstract [en]

In typical development, infants often alternate their gaze between their interaction partners and interesting stimuli, increasing the probability of joint attention toward surrounding objects and creating opportunities for communication and learning. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been found to engage less in behaviors that can initiate joint attention compared to typically developing children, but the role of such atypicalities in the development of ASD during infancy is not fully understood. Here, using eye tracking technology in a live setting, we show that 10-month-olds at high familial risk for ASD engage less in alternating gaze during interaction with an adult compared to low risk infants. These differences could not be explained by low general social preference or slow visual disengagement, as the groups performed similarly in these respects. We also found that less alternating gaze at 10 months was associated with more ASD symptoms and less showing and pointing at 18 months. These relations were similar in both the high risk and the low risk groups, and remained when controlling for general social preference and disengagement latencies. This study shows that atypicalities in alternating gaze in infants at high risk for ASD emerge already during the first 10 months of life - a finding with theoretical as well as potential practical implications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-327116OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-327116DiVA, id: diva2:1129478
Available from: 2017-08-03 Created: 2017-08-03 Last updated: 2018-01-12
In thesis
1. Joint Attention in Development: Insights from Children with Autism and Infant Siblings
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Joint Attention in Development: Insights from Children with Autism and Infant Siblings
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Compared to other children, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are known to engage less in joint attention - the sharing of attention between two individuals toward a common object or event. Joint attention behaviors - for example gaze following, alternating gaze, and pointing - play an important role in early development, as they provide a foundation for learning and social interaction. Study I and Study II focused on infant siblings of children with ASD. These infants, often termed high risk (HR) infants, have an increased probability of receiving a later ASD diagnosis. Studying them therefore allows for the detection of early signs of ASD. Live eye tracking was used to investigate different joint attention behaviors at 10 months of age. Study I showed that omitting the head movement that usually accompany experimenters’ eye gaze shifts in similar designs reduced gaze following performance in the HR group, but not in a group of infants at low risk (LR) for ASD. HR infants may thus be less sensitive to eye information, or may need more salient cues in order to follow gaze optimally. Study II focused on the infants’ tendency to initiate joint attention by alternating their gaze between a person and an event. LR infants engaged more in alternating gaze than HR infants, and less alternating gaze in infancy was associated with more ASD symptoms at 18 months. This relation remained when controlling for visual disengagement and general social interest in infancy. Study III explored the role of joint attention later in development, by investigating the microstructure of the looking behaviors of autistic and typically developing children (~6 years old). The results indicated that seeing somebody look at an object influenced the processing of that object less in autistic children than in the typically developing controls. Both groups followed gaze effectively, suggesting that differences in joint attention at this age may be subtle, but detectable with eye tracking technology. Together, the studies contribute to our understanding of the role that joint attention atypicalities play both in the early development of infants at risk for ASD, and later in the development of children with a confirmed diagnosis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2017. p. 91
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 145
Keywords
Autism Spectrum Disorder, Joint Attention, Gaze following, Alternating gaze, Social cognition, Eye tracking, Infant siblings
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-327117 (URN)978-91-513-0020-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-09-22, Sal IV, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-08-31 Created: 2017-08-05 Last updated: 2017-09-08

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Thorup, EmiliaNyström, PärGredebäck, GustafFalck-Ytter, Terje

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