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J Autism Dev Disord. 2012 Apr;42(4):487-98. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1262-5.

Selective visual attention at twelve months: signs of autism in early social interactions.

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UCLA Center for Autism Resarch & Treatment, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 760 Westwood Plaza, Room 68-237, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1759, USA.


We examined social attention and attention shifting during (a) a play interaction between 12-month olds and an examiner and (b) after the examiner pretended to hurt herself. We coded the target and duration of infants' visual fixations and frequency of attention shifts. Siblings of children with autism and controls with no family history of autism were tested at 12 months and screened for ASD at 36 months. Groups did not differ on proportion of attention to social stimuli or attention shifting during the play condition. All groups demonstrated more social attention and attention shifting during the distress condition. Infants later diagnosed with ASD tended to continue looking at a toy during the distress condition despite the salience of social information.

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