Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Infants later diagnosed with autism follow adults’ gaze, but seldom initiate joint attention

24.05.2019

In typical development, both infants and their parents flexibly use verbal and non-verbal behaviors to establish frequent episodes of joint attention, such as when a child follows her parent’s gaze to look at an airplane in the sky. A new study published in Biological Psychiatry shows that infants who are later diagnosed with autism react adequately when others initiate joint attention, but seldom actively seek to establish such episodes themselves. This finding provides support for the view that children with autism have reduced social motivation already as infants.

In the new study, the researchers investigated joint attention skills in 10-month-old infants. Joint attention means that one attends to the same objects and events as other people, which is critical both when infants learn about their environment and for their language development.


Illustration of the experiment designed to assess initiation of joint attention in infancy.

Illustration: Pär Nyström

“When the parent initiates, the child is said to be responding to joint attention – such as when he or she follows the gaze of the parent to look at an object. When the child initiates, it is referred to as initiation of joint attention.

For example, by pointing or vocalizing the young child can guide the adult’s attention and shape his/her own immediate social environment to fit his/her needs and interests.

Importantly, already before infants can point or speak, they may use their eye movements to influence the parent, by alternating gaze between the face of the parent and objects that have caught their attention.

The current study assessed this particular type of preverbal communicative behavior in infancy,” says Pär Nyström, researcher at Department of Psychology, Uppsala University and one of the authors on the new study.

The study included infants who had an older sibling with autism. Most of these infants develop typically, yet the probability of later being diagnosed with autism is considerably higher in this group than in the general population.

The infants were tested in playful experiments designed to elicit different types of joint attention behaviors. During the session, an eye tracker measured where the infants looked.

The infants were seated on their parents lap facing the experiment leader, when a lamp apparently out of sight of the experimenter suddenly started to flash (see illustration). The lights were flashing for 10 seconds, to provide the infant with an opportunity to initiate joint attention.

Infants who later developed typically, tended to look frequently back and forth between the flashing light and the experimenter, as if they were trying to attract their attention and share this experience with the adult. In contrast, the infants who later were diagnosed with autism produced much less such communicative gaze shifts at 10 months of age, a critical age for the development of social cognition.

“These results suggest children with autism, as infants, may not themselves create as many opportunities for social learning as other children. The differences were rather subtle, but fully detectable with modern eye tacking technology.

It is important to note that the results demonstrated significant group differences only, and it is too early to say whether the method can facilitate early detection in a clinical context,” says Terje Falck-Ytter, Associate senior lecturer at Department of Psychology and Uppsala Child- and Babylab, Uppsala University and principal investigator for the study.

In contrast to the findings regarding initiation, the study showed that all infants tended to follow the experimenter’s gaze spontaneously. Strikingly, they were able to do so even when the experimenter only moved her eyes, while the head remained stationary.

“The contrasting findings between responding to and initiating social communication may be informative for future research into early intervention”, says Terje Falck-Ytter.

The study is a part of the larger project Early Autism Sweden (EASE) (www.smasyskon.se), which is a collaboration between Uppsala University and the Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet (KIND) in Sweden. The participants joint attention skills were examined at 10,14, and 18 months of age.

At three years of age a full diagnostic evaluation was conducted. In total, 81 infants with an older sibling with autism took part in the study, of whom 22 met criteria for autism at follow-up. The study also included a control group consisting of 31 infants from the general population.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Terje Falck-Ytter, Associate senior lecturer at Department of Psychology and Uppsala Child- and Babylab, Uppsala University; email: Terje.Falck-Ytter@psyk.uu.se Telephone +46-18-471 25 22 Mobile: +46-70-458 14 75

Originalpublikation:

Nyström P. et al.; Joint attention in infancy and the emergence of autism, Biological Psychiatry https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322319313721?via%3Dihub, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.05.006

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uu.se/en/news-media/press-releases/press-release/?id=4160&area=3,...
http://www.smasyskon.se/en/start.php
https://ki.se/en/kind/the-project-ease
https://www.psyk.uu.se/uppsala-child-and-baby-lab/

Elin Bäckström | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Genetic differences between strains of Epstein-Barr virus can alter its activity
18.07.2019 | University of Sussex

nachricht Machine learning platform guides pancreatic cyst management in patients
18.07.2019 | American Association for the Advancement of Science

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Better thermal conductivity by adjusting the arrangement of atoms

Adjusting the thermal conductivity of materials is one of the challenges nanoscience is currently facing. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Spain, researchers from the University of Basel have shown that the atomic vibrations that determine heat generation in nanowires can be controlled through the arrangement of atoms alone. The scientists will publish the results shortly in the journal Nano Letters.

In the electronics and computer industry, components are becoming ever smaller and more powerful. However, there are problems with the heat generation. It is...

Im Focus: First-ever visualizations of electrical gating effects on electronic structure

Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.

Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...

Im Focus: Megakaryocytes act as „bouncers“ restraining cell migration in the bone marrow

Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.

Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...

Im Focus: Artificial neural network resolves puzzles from condensed matter physics: Which is the perfect quantum theory?

For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.

Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...

Im Focus: Extremely hard yet metallically conductive: Bayreuth researchers develop novel material with high-tech prospects

An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".

The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Heat transport through single molecules

19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Welcome Committee for Comets

19.07.2019 | Earth Sciences

Better thermal conductivity by adjusting the arrangement of atoms

19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>