The Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials: evaluation of a battery of candidate eye-tracking biomarkers for use in autism clinical trials

  • Frederick Shic (Creator)
  • Adam Naples (Creator)
  • Erin Barney (Creator)
  • Shou An Chang (Creator)
  • Beibin Li (Creator)
  • Takumi McAllister (Creator)
  • Minah Kim (Creator)
  • Kelsey J. Dommer (Creator)
  • Simone Hasselmo (Creator)
  • Adham Atyabi (Creator)
  • Quan Wang (Creator)
  • Gerhard Helleman (Creator)
  • April R. Levin (Creator)
  • Helen Seow (Creator)
  • Raphael A. Bernier (Creator)
  • Katarzyna Charwaska (Creator)
  • Geraldine Dawson (Creator)
  • James Dziura (Creator)
  • Susan Faja (Creator)
  • Shafali S. Jeste (Creator)
  • Scott Johnson (Creator)
  • Michael Murias (Creator)
  • Charles A. Nelson (Creator)
  • Maura Sabatos-DeVito (Creator)
  • Damla Senturk (Creator)
  • Catherine A. Sugar (Creator)
  • Sara J. Webb (Creator)
  • James McPartland (Creator)
  • Shou An Chang (Creator)
  • Raphael Bernier (Creator)
  • Geraldine Dawson (Creator)
  • Charles A. Nelson (Creator)



Abstract Background Eye tracking (ET) is a powerful methodology for studying attentional processes through quantification of eye movements. The precision, usability, and cost-effectiveness of ET render it a promising platform for developing biomarkers for use in clinical trials for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Methods The Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials conducted a multisite, observational study of 6–11-year-old children with ASD (n = 280) and typical development (TD, n = 119). The ET battery included: Activity Monitoring, Social Interactive, Static Social Scenes, Biological Motion Preference, and Pupillary Light Reflex tasks. A priori, gaze to faces in Activity Monitoring, Social Interactive, and Static Social Scenes tasks were aggregated into an Oculomotor Index of Gaze to Human Faces (OMI) as the primary outcome measure. This work reports on fundamental biomarker properties (data acquisition rates, construct validity, six-week stability, group discrimination, and clinical relationships) derived from these assays that serve as a base for subsequent development of clinical trial biomarker applications. Results All tasks exhibited excellent acquisition rates, met expectations for construct validity, had moderate or high six-week stabilities, and highlighted subsets of the ASD group with distinct biomarker performance. Within ASD, higher OMI was associated with increased memory for faces, decreased autism symptom severity, and higher verbal IQ and pragmatic communication skills. Limitations No specific interventions were administered in this study, limiting information about how ET biomarkers track or predict outcomes in response to treatment. This study did not consider co-occurrence of psychiatric conditions nor specificity in comparison with non-ASD special populations, therefore limiting our understanding of the applicability of outcomes to specific clinical contexts-of-use. Research-grade protocols and equipment were used; further studies are needed to explore deployment in less standardized contexts. Conclusions All ET tasks met expectations regarding biomarker properties, with strongest performance for tasks associated with attention to human faces and weakest performance associated with biological motion preference. Based on these data, the OMI has been accepted to the FDA’s Biomarker Qualification program, providing a path for advancing efforts to develop biomarkers for use in clinical trials.
Date made available2022

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