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Brief Report: Visual Perception, Task-Induced Pupil Response Trajectories and ASD Features in Children

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We applied a trajectory-based analysis to eye tracking data in order to quantify individualized patterns of pupil response in the context of global–local processing that may be associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) features. Multiple pupil response trajectories across both global and local conditions were identified. Using the combined trajectory patterns for global and local conditions for each individual, we were able to identify three groups based on trajectory group membership that were thought to reflect perceptual strategy. Results indicated that the proportion of children with ASD was significantly greater in the group demonstrating a local-focus response. This research presents a novel analytic approach to the objective characterization of individualized pupil response patterns that are associated with ASD features.

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    While stimuli were presented for 5.5 s, due to consistent variability in Tobii eyetracking acquisitions (some having slightly over and/or under 330 samples taken across each 5.5 stimulus presentation) the initial 300 collected samples within each trial were used in analyses.

  2. 2.

    We also explored potential differences in baseline pupil diameter between global and local conditions between our pupil trajectory groups; however, results did not indicate significant differences in baseline pupil diameter associated with pupil trajectory groups (p’s > 0.73).


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The authors are grateful to Kayleigh M. Adamson, BS for her help with recruitment and data collection. This study was funded by the Simons Foundation, SFARI Explorer Award #350225.

Author information

ASD and VT designed the research. ASD programmed the task and collected the data. YH and ASD completed data analysis. ASD, YH and VT interpreted the data. ASD drafted the manuscript. ASD, YH and VT critically revised the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final version of the manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

Correspondence to Antoinette Sabatino DiCriscio or Vanessa Troiani.

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DiCriscio, A.S., Hu, Y. & Troiani, V. Brief Report: Visual Perception, Task-Induced Pupil Response Trajectories and ASD Features in Children. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 3016–3030 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04028-7

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  • Pupillometry
  • Eye tracking
  • Perception
  • Global–local processing
  • Autism