Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 108-121

Visual Fixation Patterns during Reciprocal Social Interaction Distinguish a Subgroup of 6-Month-Old Infants At-Risk for Autism from Comparison Infants

  • Noah MerinAffiliated withNeuroscience Graduate Group and School of Medicine, Class 2008, University of California
  • , Gregory S. YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of California
  • , Sally OzonoffAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of California
  • , Sally J. RogersAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of CaliforniaM.I.N.D. Institute, University of CA, Davis Medical Center Email author 

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Abstract

Thirty-one infant siblings of children with autism and 24 comparison infants were tested at 6 months of age during social interaction with a caregiver, using a modified Still Face paradigm conducted via a closed-circuit TV-video system. In the Still Face paradigm, the mother interacts with the infant, then freezes and displays a neutral, expressionless face, then resumes interaction. Eye tracking data on infant visual fixation patterns were recorded during the three episodes of the experiment. Using a hierarchical cluster analysis, we identified a subgroup of infants demonstrating diminished gaze to the mother’s eyes relative to her mouth during the Still Face episode. Ten out of the 11 infants in this subgroup had an older sibling with autism.

Keywords

Autism Siblings Still Face paradigm Visual fixation patterns Eye–Mouth Index (EMI) Face perception High-risk infants