Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurogenetic disorder characterized by social-communication deficits as well as restricted and repetitive interests and behaviors. Differences in visual-perceptual style, including a local perceptual bias at the expense of global processing and perseverative visual attention related to circumscribed interests, are thought to underlie key features of autism. Local and global (i.e., selective attention to parts vs. wholes, respectively) processing abilities rely on different underlying neural correlates, which may correspond to autism symptomatology and severity. Differences in visual-perceptual styles have also been observed in family members of individuals with autism, along with a constellation of subclinical features believed to index genetic liability (i.e., the broad autism phenotype; BAP). Similar to what has been observed in individuals with autism, evidence suggests that relatives may also demonstrate a preference for local features of their visual scene compared to parents of typically developing individuals. Such patterns may serve as a phenotypic marker of genetic liability to autism. This proposal employs eye tracking to examine visual perception during central coherence and visual perseveration tasks using a family-genetic design, examining performance on three tasks of visual perceptual strategies (illusory contours and the Navon hierarchical stimuli, as indices of global processing ability, and visual exploration of social and non-social arrays), in high functioning individuals with autism and their parents. We further propose to examine performance on visual perception tasks in relationship to a broad battery of existing clinical, cognitive, language, and social cognitive data available on an existing sample of probands and parents participating in a companion study. The use of eye tracking may afford insights into underlying processing strategies that give rise to perceptual biases and/or perseveration, and which may importantly relate to clinical phenotypes, and serve as candidate endophenotypes.
|Effective start/end date||3/3/16 → 2/28/19|
- National Institute of Mental Health (5R03MH107834-02)