Orienting to Object Exploration in Infancy: Examining the Genetic Liability of Autism Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Elison, Jed T.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • An optimal information processor is both flexible and efficient. Flexible and efficient allocation of attentional resources to salient aspects of the environment during infancy contributes to adaptive cognitive and social-cognitive development. There is evidence to suggest that individuals with autism show circumscribed patterns of attentional allocation and that these profiles are associated with rigid and repetitive patterns of behavior. It is unknown whether circumscribed attentional patterns precede the onset of autistic symptoms, or more specifically, the onset of rigid and repetitive patterns of behavior. The current study was designed to examine the developmental association between attentional patterns and the presence of a restricted repertoire of object exploration in a large cohort of infants that included both genetically high-risk infant siblings of children with autism and low-risk infant siblings of typically developing children. The gap/overlap paradigm was used to measure attentional and oculomotor performance and repetitive object exploration/manipulation was extracted from a behavioral coding scheme designed for use with a standardized experimenter-based assessment. Results indicated that both groups of children showed developmental continuity in attentional performance between 6 and 12 months of age. The high-risk and low-risk groups differed in a metric of attentional disengagement at 12 months. High-risk infants showed higher rates of repetitive object manipulation at 12 months. The change in attentional orienting from 6 to 12 months of age, risk status, and cognitive level accounted for 27% of the variance in repetitive object manipulation at 12 months. These findings highlight a potential developmental mechanism operating prior to the onset of abnormal behavioral patterns characteristic of autism.
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  • In Copyright
  • Reznick, J. Steven
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2011

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