Statistical Learning is Associated with Autism Symptoms and Verbal Abilities in Young Children with Autism
Statistical learning-extracting regularities in the environment-may underlie complex social behavior. 124 children, 56 with autism and 68 typically developing, ages 2–8 years, completed a novel visual statistical learning task on an iPad. Averaged together, children with autism demonstrated less learning on the task compared to typically developing children. However, multivariate classification analyses characterized individual behavior patterns, and demonstrated a subset of children with autism had similar learning patterns to typically developing children and that subset of children had less severe autism symptoms. Therefore, statistically averaging data resulted in missing critical heterogeneity. Variability in statistical learning may help to understand differences in autism symptoms across individuals and could be used to tailor and inform treatment decisions.
KeywordsStatistical learning Autism Social communication Cognitive abilities Bayes classification
RMJ and CL developed the study. RMJ, GJB and CL contributed to the study design. Testing and data collection was performed by RMJ, AH and CC, TT performed the data analysis with the supervision of RMJ and CL, RMJ drafted the manuscript and CL and TT provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.
This study was funded in part by an Autism Speaks Meixner Fellowship (7608), the Department of Defense (AR130106), a generous gift from the Mortimer D. Sackler family and the Leon Levy Foundation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Catherine Lord receives royalties from the ADOS and all proceeds related to this project were donated to charity.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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