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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Mar;50:189-203. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.10.006. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

Social visual engagement in infants and toddlers with autism: early developmental transitions and a model of pathogenesis.

Author information

1
Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory University School of Medicine, 1920 Briarcliff Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329, United States. Electronic address: ami.klin@emory.edu.
2
Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory University School of Medicine, 1920 Briarcliff Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329, United States.

Abstract

Efforts to determine and understand the causes of autism are currently hampered by a large disconnect between recent molecular genetics findings that are associated with the condition and the core behavioral symptoms that define the condition. In this perspective piece, we propose a systems biology framework to bridge that gap between genes and symptoms. The framework focuses on basic mechanisms of socialization that are highly-conserved in evolution and are early-emerging in development. By conceiving of these basic mechanisms of socialization as quantitative endophenotypes, we hope to connect genes and behavior in autism through integrative studies of neurodevelopmental, behavioral, and epigenetic changes. These changes both lead to and are led by the accomplishment of specific social adaptive tasks in a typical infant's life. However, based on recent research that indicates that infants later diagnosed with autism fail to accomplish at least some of these tasks, we suggest that a narrow developmental period, spanning critical transitions from reflexive, subcortically-controlled visual behavior to interactional, cortically-controlled and social visual behavior be prioritized for future study. Mapping epigenetic, neural, and behavioral changes that both drive and are driven by these early transitions may shed a bright light on the pathogenesis of autism.

KEYWORDS:

Autism; Autism spectrum disorders; Biological motion; Epigenetics; Eye fixation; Infancy; Pathogenesis; Prodromal; Social visual engagement; Visual imprinting

PMID:
25445180
PMCID:
PMC4355308
DOI:
10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.10.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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