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Sheila Crewther, Andrea Wright, Melvyn Goodale, Robin Laycock; Autism Spectrum Disorder traits predict reduced attentional priority for faces: Fact or fiction?. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):482. doi: 10.1167/16.12.482.
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Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are reported to attend to social stimuli such as faces atypically, though the underlying aetiology remains undetermined. Neurophysiological factors and reduced social motivation have both been hypothesised as antecedent causal factors. The current study aimed to address this issue by comparing the speed of activation of visual attention towards faces and a non-social target category (vehicles) in low and high ASD trait groups (n=18 per group). Participants from the general population completed a self-report measure of ASD traits after which their eye movements (saccades) recorded using a high-speed eye tracker. The hypothesis that higher ASD traits would predict slower saccade onset times was supported with a strong effect size being observed for both stimulus categories. In addition there was a moderate effect for the interaction between target category and group, such that the high ASD-trait group showed a greater impairment in saccade onset for vehicle targets than faces. Our results suggest that physiological factors lead to slower activation of visual attention in individuals with higher ASD traits, regardless of stimulus category. Replication of the current study with a clinical sample and systematically varying the targets to include emotional and dynamic face stimuli is needed to assess generalisability of the findings.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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