Saccade dysmetria indicates attenuated visual exploration in autism spectrum disorder

  • Background: Visual exploration in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by attenuated social attention. The underlying oculomotor function during visual exploration is understudied, whereas oculomotor function during restricted viewing suggested saccade dysmetria in ASD by altered pontocerebellar motor modulation. Methods: Oculomotor function was recorded using remote eye tracking in 142 ASD participants and 142 matched neurotypical controls during free viewing of naturalistic videos with and without human content. The sample was heterogenous concerning age (6–30 years), cognitive ability (60–140 IQ), and male/female ratio (3:1). Oculomotor function was defined as saccade, fixation, and pupil-dilation features that were compared between groups in linear mixed models. Oculomotor function was investigated as ASD classifier and features were correlated with clinical measures. Results: We observed decreased saccade duration (∆M = −0.50, CI [−0.21, −0.78]) and amplitude (∆M = −0.42, CI [−0.12, −0.72]), which was independent of human video content. We observed null findings concerning fixation and pupil-dilation features (POWER = .81). Oculomotor function is a valid ASD classifier comparable to social attention concerning discriminative power. Within ASD, saccade features correlated with measures of restricted and repetitive behavior. Conclusions: We conclude saccade dysmetria as ASD oculomotor phenotype relevant to visual exploration. Decreased saccade amplitude and duration indicate spatially clustered fixations that attenuate visual exploration and emphasize endogenous over exogenous attention. We propose altered pontocerebellar motor modulation as underlying mechanism that contributes to atypical (oculo-)motor coordination and attention function in ASD.

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Author:Nico BastORCiDGND, Luke Mason, Christine M. FreitagORCiDGND, Tim Smith, Ana Maria Portugal, Luise Poustka, Tobias BanaschewskiORCiDGND, Mark Johnson
Parent Title (English):The journal of child psychology and psychiatry
Place of publication:Oxford
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2020/05/25
Date of first Publication:2020/05/25
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Contributing Corporation:The EU-AIMS LEAP Group
Release Date:2022/03/08
Tag:Eye tracking; biomarker; brainstem; cerebellum; locus coeruleus; pupillometry; visual attention
Page Number:11
First Page:149
Last Page:159
This study was funded by EU AIMS and AIMS-2-TRIALS. EU-AIMS received support from the IMI Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement no.115300, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013), from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) companies’ in kind contribution, and from Autism Speaks. AIMS-2-TRIALS received funding from the IMI 2 JU under grant agreement no. 777394. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA, Autism Speaks, Autistica, and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0