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Vanessa Troiani, Antoinette DiCriscio; Superior Abilities to Focus Visual Attention and Pupil Dynamics are linked with Broader Autism Traits. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):636. doi: 10.1167/17.10.636.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Introduction: Aberrant sensory processing, especially in vision, may underlie many of the behaviors observed in autism. While atypical focusing of spatial attention has been associated with an autism diagnosis, the quantitative relationship between atypical spatial attention and autism traits that extend into the typical population remains poorly understood. Method: In a series of 4 experiments that include standardized visual perceptual assessments, autism trait questionnaires, and pupillometry eye tracking tasks, we examine the relationship between focused spatial attention and autism traits. Results: In Experiment 1, observers (N=211) with higher scores on an autism trait questionnaire also perform better on the Figure-Ground (FG) subtest of the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills (TVPS-3). This subtest requires an observer to detect a local form in a global scene. In Experiment 2, we confirm the result from Experiment 1 (N=57) and demonstrate that the relationship is specific to the FG subscale, as no other subtest of the TVPS-3 (i.e. memory, closure, spatial relationships, etc.) is related to autism traits. In Experiment 3, we implement a Navon letter task while recording pupillometry data with an eye tracker (N=34). We find that shifting attention from the global to local part of a stimulus is associated with pupil constriction. In Experiment 4, we implement an eye tracking task that captures reflexive pupil dynamics to changes in luminance (N=42). We show that the amplitude of these reflexive pupil constrictions and dilations are linked to autism traits. Conclusions: These results provide converging evidence that superior performance on tasks that require focused, local form detection is associated with autism traits in the broader population. Furthermore, we demonstrate that pupillary dynamics are relevant to focusing attention in order to detect local forms and quantitative traits associated with the autism phenotype.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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