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Visual Attention Composites Across the Early Development of Infants at Heightened Genetic Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Sperle, Lisa (2018) Visual Attention Composites Across the Early Development of Infants at Heightened Genetic Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Aggregating attentional measures across diverse visual stimuli into composite scores quantifies how infants generally attend to their environment. These measures, called visual attention composites, show high clinical utility in the infant literature for identifying risk populations, such as preterm infants and those at risk for intellectual disability, as well as for predicting later childhood intellectual functioning. There is also recent evidence that visual attention composites from various eye-tracking tasks have high clinical utility for identifying children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; Frazier et al., 2016). Thus, the present study is the first to date to explore the application of visual attention composites to infants with and without heightened genetic risk for ASD. Participants consisted of 47 infant siblings of children with ASD (high-risk infants; HR) and 39 infant siblings of typically developing children (low-risk infants; LR). Infants were given follow-up assessments at 24, 36 and/or 48 months and classified as ASD, non-typically developing (if non-ASD developmental delays were present) or typically-developing. Eye-tracking data was collected while infant participants viewed a diverse array of stimuli, including static faces, dot patterns, objects and dynamic videos at 11 and 16 months of age. Results indicated that visual attention composites calculated from these eye-tracking tasks were predictive of later childhood atypical development and ASD diagnosis. Furthermore, 16-month attentional composites related to the ratio of attention to figures versus background were predictive of 36-month intellectual functioning. Collectively, findings support visual attention composites as predictors of later development and highlight the potential benefit of creating a visual attention clinical battery to improve early ASD diagnostics. Further clinical implications and advantages of incorporating attentional measures in infant testing are discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sperle, Lisalis63@pitt.edulis63
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairStrauss, Markstrauss@pitt.edustrauss
Committee MemberMazefsky, Carla
Committee MemberPogue-Geile, Michael
Committee MemberSilk, Jennifer
Committee MemberWilliams, Diane L.
Date: 27 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 July 2017
Approval Date: 27 September 2018
Submission Date: 26 July 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 158
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: visual attention; infants; autism
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2018 23:03
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2018 23:03


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