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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Jan 7;45(1):144-51. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

Analysis of face gaze in autism using "Bubbles".

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  • 1Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, HSS 228-77, Caltech, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA. mlspezio@hss.caltech.edu

Abstract

One of the components of abnormal social functioning in autism is an impaired ability to direct eye gaze onto other people's faces in social situations. Here, we investigated the relationship between gaze onto the eye and mouth regions of faces, and the visual information that was present within those regions. We used the "Bubbles" method to vary the facial information available on any given trial by revealing only small parts of the face, and measured the eye movements made as participants viewed these stimuli. Compared to ten IQ- and age-matched healthy controls, eight participants with autism showed less fixation specificity to the eyes and mouth, a greater tendency to saccade away from the eyes when information was present in those regions, and abnormal directionality of saccades. The findings provide novel detail to the abnormal way in which people with autism look at faces, an impairment that likely influences all subsequent face processing.

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