Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Toddlers' Focus On Mouths Rather Than On Eyes Is Predictor Of Autism Severity

Date:
October 6, 2008
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Scientists have found that 2-year-olds with autism looked significantly more at the mouths of others, and less at their eyes, than typically developing toddlers. This abnormality predicts the level of disability, according to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Two-year-olds with autism look less at others' eyes and more at their mouths.
Credit: Yale University

Scientists at Yale School of Medicine have found that two-year-olds with autism looked significantly more at the mouths of others, and less at their eyes, than typically developing toddlers. This abnormality predicts the level of disability, according to study results published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Lead author Warren Jones and colleagues Ami Klin and Katelin Carr used eye-tracking technology to quantify the visual fixations of two-year-olds who watched caregivers approach them and engage in typical mother-child interactions, such as playing games like peek-a-boo.

After the first few weeks of life, infants look in the eyes of others, setting processes of socialization in motion. In infancy and throughout life, the act of looking at the eyes of others is a window into people's feelings and thoughts and a powerful facilitator in shaping the formation of the social mind and brain.

The scientists found that the amount of time toddlers spent focused on the eyes predicted their level of social disability. The less they focused on the eyes, the more severely disabled they were. These results may offer a useful biomarker for quantifying the presence and severity of autism early in life and screen infants for autism. The findings could aid research on the neurobiology and genetics of autism, work that is dependent on quantifiable markers of syndrome expression.

"The findings offer hope that these novel methods will enable the detection of vulnerabilities for autism in infancy," said Jones, a research scientist from the Yale School of Medicine Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program and the Yale Child Study Center. "We hope this technology can be used to detect and measure signs of an emerging social disability, potentially improving a child's outcome. Earlier intervention would capitalize on the neuroplasticity of the developing brain in infancy."

Study collaborator Ami Klin, director of the Autism Program at the Child Study Center, said they are now using this technology in a large prospective study of the younger siblings of children with autism, who are at greater risk of also developing the condition. "By following babies at risk of autism monthly from the time they are born, we hope to trace the origins of social engagement in human infants and to detect the first signs of derailment from the normative path," said Klin.

Jones and Klin are also engaged in parallel studies aimed at identifying the mechanisms underlying abnormal visual fixation in infants with autism. "Our working hypothesis is that these children's increased fixation on mouths points to a predisposition to seek physical, rather than social contingencies in their surrounding world. They focus on the physical synchrony between lip movements and speech sounds, rather than on the social-affective context of the entreating eye gaze of others," said Jones. "These children may be seeing faces in terms of their physical attributes alone; watching a face without necessarily experiencing it as an engaging partner sharing in a social interaction."

Citation: Archives of General Psychiatry, 65(8), 946-954.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Toddlers' Focus On Mouths Rather Than On Eyes Is Predictor Of Autism Severity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926143751.htm>.
Yale University. (2008, October 6). Toddlers' Focus On Mouths Rather Than On Eyes Is Predictor Of Autism Severity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926143751.htm
Yale University. "Toddlers' Focus On Mouths Rather Than On Eyes Is Predictor Of Autism Severity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926143751.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins