Abnormal visual attention to simple social stimuli in 4-month-old infants at high risk for Autism

Di Giorgio, Elisa, Rosa-Salva, Orsola, Frasnelli, Elisa , Calcagni, Antonio, Lunghi, Marco, Scattoni, Maria Luisa, Simion, Francesca and Vallortigara, Giorgio (2021) Abnormal visual attention to simple social stimuli in 4-month-old infants at high risk for Autism. Scientific Reports, 11 (1). p. 15785. ISSN 2045-2322

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-95418-4

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Abnormal visual attention to simple social stimuli in 4-month-old infants at high risk for Autism
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Abnormal visual attention to simple social stimuli in 4-month-old infants at high risk for Autism
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Abstract

Despite an increasing interest in detecting early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), the pathogenesis of the social impairments characterizing ASD is still largely unknown. Atypical visual attention to social stimuli is a potential early marker of the social and communicative deficits of ASD. Some authors hypothesized that such impairments are present from birth, leading to a decline in the subsequent typical functioning of the learning-mechanisms. Others suggested that these early deficits emerge during the transition from subcortically to cortically mediated mechanisms, happening around 2-3 months of age. The present study aimed to provide additional evidence on the origin of the early visual attention disturbance that seems to characterize infants at high risk (HR) for ASD. Four visual preference tasks were used to investigate social attention in 4-month-old HR, compared to low-risk (LR) infants of the same age. Visual attention differences between HR and LR infants emerged only for stimuli depicting a direct eye-gaze, compared to an adverted eye-gaze. Specifically, HR infants showed a significant visual preference for the direct eye-gaze stimulus compared to LR infants, which may indicate a delayed development of the visual preferences normally observed at birth in typically developing infants. No other differences were found between groups. Results are discussed in the light of the hypotheses on the origins of early social visual attention impairments in infants at risk for ASD.

Keywords:Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD); infants at high risk, social visual attention, social brain development, visual preference
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C820 Developmental Psychology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:45926
Deposited On:03 Aug 2021 10:30

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