PSYC 213 Chapter Notes -Neurodevelopmental Disorder, Social Cue, 18 Months

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21 Apr 2012
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SENSITIVITY TO EYE GAZE IN AUTISM: IS IT NORMAL? IS IT AUTOMATIC? IS IT SOCIAL?
K. NATION & S. PENNY
[purpose of review - determine the circumstances that people with autism may show dec.
sensitivity to eye gaze information]
AUTISM: neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by unusual repetitive and stereotypical
behaviors
joint visual attention - capacity to share attention with social partners in a coordinated way
- deficit in the development of joint visual attention is one of the
earliest behavioral manifestations of autism
SPONTANEOUS GAZE FOLLOWING IN TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT AND AUTISM
typical development (TD) timeline of spontaneous gaze following
2 months - preferentially scan the eye region of the face
4 months - able to discriminate gaze direction
6 months - readily orient attention to an object being looked at by another
person (only it is inside their visual field)
9-10 months - follow head-turn and gaze shifts spontaneously, readily orient
attention to an object being looked at by another person (inside & outside their visual field)
18 months - able to follow eye gaze precisely, regardless of the target's
distance/location
[ASD is rarely diagnosed before 24 months]
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retrospective study - analyzed first birthday videos
results: children later diagnosed with autism spent less time looking at faces
Q. Can children with autism discern where other people are looking? (Leekam et al. 1997)
yes - able to compute eye direction (same performance as TD)
however; ASD poor at monitoring gaze, do not spontaneously orient
towards gaze direction
development of spontaneous gaze following behavior is delayed & linked to mental age (Leekam et
al. 2000)
- ASD: mental age (verbal & non-verbal) was a sig. predictor of performance at baseline, and highly
correlated with number of correct trials in observation
- mental age 4 years : associated with the ability to follow eye gaze and head turn in a laboratory
setting (vs. TD: 10-11months)
Leekam et al. summary:
non-autistic children with developmental delays: eye gaze following
behaviors emerge in line with age (regardless of develop. level)
ASD: both chronological age & mental age are important factors for the
development of gaze following behaviors
in a complex/real-life environment, a mental age of 4 years may not
be enough to show gaze-following behavior
WHAT UNDERLIES DELAYS IN SPONTANEOUS GAZE FOLLOWING IN CHILDREN WITH
AUTISM?
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proposed explanations for the developmental delay of spontaneous gaze and head turn:
1. cognitive approach
children with autism fail to interpret gaze/head movement
as an index of intentionality
TOM: gaze following does not mean you understand the
other person's mental state
2. contingency and learning from experience
gaze following behavior is learned from the pairing of gaze/head-
turn cue and a rewarding target (classical conditioning) and/or a contingency
between following another person's head turn and a rewarding event (operant
conditioning)
half of children with autism improved significantly on a conditioned
head turn procedure (*but how sustainable is it?)
3. lack of social attention
lack of social attention despite intact general attention (mixed
results & lack of clinical control groups)
or deficits could be due to a general problem in disengaging
attention from one stimulus and shifting it to another
REFLEXIVE ATTENTIONAL CUEING: METHODS AND TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT
posner-style spatial cueing paradigm: picture of a face is shown (with eyes diverted to the
left/right - the cue), then the subject must identify a target stimulus which appears towards the
gaze direction (valid location) or opposite to the gaze direction (non-valid location)
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