HR-ASD Infants' Social Attention and Neural Activity during Parent-Child Play



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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with persistent challenges in social communication that is proposed to be neurobiological in origin. Assessing symptom domains associated with ASD, such as attention, may reveal specific patterns of neural activity associated with this disorder. Infants at high-risk for autism (HR-ASD; infants with at least one nuclear family member diagnosed with ASD) have different attention behaviors compared to infants at low-risk for autism (LR-ASD; infants without a nuclear family member diagnosed with ASD). HR-ASD infants have a higher likelihood of being confirmed with a diagnosis of ASD than LR-ASD infants. This is due to the variabilities in attention patterns as part of social deficits. We know little about the neural correspondences of early attention for HR-ASD infants, especially under social circumstances. Investigating the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying social development among HR-ASD populations is an urgent matter for improving early ASD screening and diagnosis procedures. Though current eye-tracking studies have begun to study HR-ASD infants, we propose a holistic approach to characterize social attention by assessing the dynamics of brain oscillation through the combination of head-mounted eye-tracking and electroencephalography (EEG) methods. This study aims to examine possible associations between infant social attention and neural activity in the frontal region of the brain within a social context. The infant's behaviors were assessed by an innovative approach of combining a head-mounted eye-tracker and EEG cap.