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Neuron. 2015 Nov 4;88(3):604-16. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.042. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

Atypical Visual Saliency in Autism Spectrum Disorder Quantified through Model-Based Eye Tracking.

Author information

  • 1Computation and Neural Systems, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA; Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.
  • 2Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117583, Singapore.
  • 3Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
  • 4Department of Psychiatry and PEERS Clinic, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.
  • 5Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117583, Singapore. Electronic address: dr.qizhao@gmail.com.

Abstract

The social difficulties that are a hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are thought to arise, at least in part, from atypical attention toward stimuli and their features. To investigate this hypothesis comprehensively, we characterized 700 complex natural scene images with a novel three-layered saliency model that incorporated pixel-level (e.g., contrast), object-level (e.g., shape), and semantic-level attributes (e.g., faces) on 5,551 annotated objects. Compared with matched controls, people with ASD had a stronger image center bias regardless of object distribution, reduced saliency for faces and for locations indicated by social gaze, and yet a general increase in pixel-level saliency at the expense of semantic-level saliency. These results were further corroborated by direct analysis of fixation characteristics and investigation of feature interactions. Our results for the first time quantify atypical visual attention in ASD across multiple levels and categories of objects.

KEYWORDS:

attention; autism spectrum disorder; center bias; eye tracking; faces; saliency; semantics; social cognition

PMID:
26593094
PMCID:
PMC4662072
DOI:
10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.042
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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