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Performance in a gaze-cueing task is associated with autistic traits

Authors
  • de Araújo, Mariana FP
  • de Castro, Wagner A
  • Nishimaru, Hiroshi
  • Urakawa, Susumu
  • Ono, Taketoshi
  • Nishijo, Hisao
Type
Published Article
Journal
AIMS Neuroscience
Publisher
AIMS Press
Publication Date
Dec 17, 2020
Volume
8
Issue
1
Pages
148–160
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3934/Neuroscience.2021007
PMID: 33490376
PMCID: PMC7815477
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research Article
License
Unknown

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show impairments in processing social cues such as facial expressions and gaze direction. Several researchers have proposed that autistic traits form a continuum that may be distributed within the general, typically developed, population. Accordingly, several studies have indicated that typically developed individuals with high levels of self-reported autistic traits have autistic-like performance in a variety of paradigms. Here, we designed a gaze-cueing task to examine whether gaze-triggered orienting is related to the extent of typically developed (TD) individuals' autistic traits (determined by their AQ test scores) and whether it is modulated by previous eye contact and different facial expressions. At each trial, TD subjects observed faces with or without eye contact. This facial stimulus then gazed toward the left or right side. Finally, a target appeared on the left or right side of the display and reaction time (RT) to the target was measured. RTs were modulated by congruency between gazing directions and target locations, and by prior eye contact in the congruent trials. In addition, individuals with higher AQ scores were slower at detecting the target when the cue was a happy face. Furthermore, faster RTs in congruent trials were associated with one specific autistic trait (attention switching deficits). Together, these results indicate that autistic traits may influence performance in a gaze cueing task.

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