Tailoring Eye Tracking to Specific Targets of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): Preliminary Results from Novel Eye-Tracking Tasks in Children with and without ASD

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
C. Foster1, F. Shic2, Q. Wang3, C. A. Wall4, E. Barney5, Y. A. Ahn2, B. Li2, L. Booth1, M. C. Lyons6, C. Paisley6, S. M. Abdullahi1, M. L. Braconnier1, J. Lei7, M. Kim2, C. C. Kautz8 and P. E. Ventola1, (1)Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, CT, (2)Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children's, Seattle, WA, (3)Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, (4)Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, (5)Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT, (6)Yale University, New Haven, CT, (7)Centre for Applied Autism Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom, (8)Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Background: Eye tracking has been used for almost 15 years in autism research but has only recently begun to advance as a viable method for monitoring clinical treatment(Dawson et al, 2010). In an ongoing study, we aim to track change in response to evidence-based behavioral treatment, PRT, through eye tracking. Here we report preliminary results from novel paradigms developed to measure specific PRT intervention targets, including a Dyadic Bid task(DB) examining sensitivity to overtures for engagement, a Conversation Following task(CF) examining conversational engagement, a Social Referencing task(SR) examining monitoring of nonverbal information, and a Theory of Mind task(ToM) examining perspective-taking.

Objectives: To explore baseline between-group differences in children with and without ASD in performance on four novel eye-tracking paradigms tailored specifically to assess change following PRT.

Methods: Participants included thirty-six 4 to 8 year-olds, ASD n=14 (11 males, MDQ=88.4 sd=19.8) and non-ASD n=22(13 males; MDQ=108.9 sd=12.4). A joint DB and CF task included clips of actors engaging in naturalistic conversation. During each clip, an actor turned to the camera and performed a bid for the participant’s attention (question or statement) then paused as though waiting for a response. DB main outcome measure was proportion of time looking at the bid actor’s face(BidActor%), and for CF, the proportion of time looking at the speaking actor(Speaker%). SR included clips of an actor performing an increasingly stressful task(e.g. inflating a balloon until it pops). SR outcome measure was proportion of time looking at the actor’s face(Face%) and activity(Activity%) during the event escalation and resolution. ToM included a hide-and-seek false belief task. ToM outcome measure was proportion of time looking in the hiding place associated with the protagonist’s false belief(FalseBelief%) and where the target object was actually hidden(TrueLocation%). Univariate ANCOVAs controlling for DAS-II GCA Standard Score were conducted to examine main effects of diagnosis(dx).

Results: DB: There was a significant main effect of dx on BidActor% during the pause following bids(F(1,36)=6.3, p<.05, ηp2=.16), and during bids that were statements(F(1,36)=4.9, p<.05, ηp2=.129), with the ASD group looking less. CF: There was a significant main effect on Speaker%(F(1,36)=4.96, p<.05, ηp2=.13) with the ASD group looking less at the speakers. SR: There was a significant main effect on Face% during the event’s resolution(F(1,36)=4.3, p<.05, ηp2=.115), and a trend toward a main effect on Activity% during the escalation(F(1,36)=3.6, p=.066, ηp2=.098) with the ASD group looking less at face and activity. TOM: There was a trend toward a main effect on TrueLocation%(F(1,36)=3.3, p=.078, ηp2=.094) with ASD looking more at the true location. There was no main effect on FalseBelief%.

Conclusions: Preliminary between-group differences provide initial validity for these novel eye-tracking paradigms. Children with ASD appear to be less sensitive to overtures for social engagement, particularly during more socially-nuanced bids. They also exhibit decreased monitoring of speakers’ faces during conversation, and less referencing of another’s face following the culmination of a stressful event. Results from ToM may reflect a deficit in perspective-taking within the ASD group. Further study is needed to assess the ability of these paradigms to measure within-subject change in response to PRT.