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Joint attention in infancy and the emergence of autism
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8986-343x
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. Department of Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet, Neuropsychiatry Division, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Psychiatry Research, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm, Sweden.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. Uppsala University, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS). Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet, Neuropsychiatry Division, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Psychiatry Research, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm, Sweden; Department of Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9714-0197
2019 (English)In: Biological Psychiatry, ISSN 0006-3223, E-ISSN 1873-2402, Vol. 86, no 8, p. 631-638Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

In typical infant development, parents and their children jointly contribute to establishing frequent episodes of joint attention that boost language acquisition and shape social cognition. Here we used novel live eye-tracking technology to evaluate the degree to which autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is related to reduced responding to others’ joint attention bids in infancy (RJA) and to a reduced tendency to initiate joint attention episodes (IJA). Because young infants use their gaze for both RJA and IJA, this approach allowed us to quantify these elusive processes early in life.

Methods

The final sample consisted of 112 infants (54 boys and 58 girls), of whom 81 were at familial risk for ASD and 31 were typically developing low-risk infants. At follow-up (36 months of age), 22 children in the high-risk group were diagnosed with ASD.

Results

At 10 months of age, rates of IJA were lower in infants later diagnosed with ASD than in the comparison groups (effect sizes d = 0.78–0.95) and followed an atypical developmental trajectory from 10 to 18 months (p < .002). RJA distinguished infants based on familial ASD risk, albeit not ASD diagnosis. The differences in IJA could not be explained by overall looking time, social preference, eye movement latencies, or number of fixations.

Conclusions

This live eye-tracking study suggests that during an important period for the development of social cognition (10–18 months of age), infants later diagnosed with ASD show marked atypicalities in IJA but not in RJA. The results indicate that IJA is an important target for future prodromal intervention trials.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 86, no 8, p. 631-638
Keywords [en]
antecedent marker, parent child interaction, reward processing, neurodevelopmental disorders, prodromal intervention, social cognition
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-383819DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.05.006ISI: 000487249300010PubMedID: 31262432OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-383819DiVA, id: diva2:1317410
Funder
Riksbankens JubileumsfondSwedish Research Council, 2015-03670Swedish Research Council, 2018-06232EU, Horizon 2020Available from: 2019-05-22 Created: 2019-05-22 Last updated: 2019-10-28Bibliographically approved

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