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Eye Tracking Research: Call for participants

Posted by: | Posted on: November 27th, 2013 | 1 Comments

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I am very fortunate to lecture on the MSc Autism course at Stirling University, a course our former charity Autism Treatment Trust has helped developing. Early next year, a new MSc Research Project will be initiated. The project addresses the benefits of Eye Position Tracking technology to measure the social engagement of autistic children, comparing these measurements to that obtained from a range of standardised autism assessments. The aims are to identify a suitable methodology to sensitively and objectively measure autism. The direct applications are to monitor children longitudinally. This is greatly needed, as there is essentially no monitoring once a diagnosis is established. How do these children progress?   Very few studies address this question. Another application is of course to develop a screening tool to identify the children at risk of developing autism. But for now, the aims are to measure the level of social engagement of the children. This tool will assist us in measuring objectively the outcomes of an intervention. Parents have always said, one of the first positive response when a child start a GF/CF diet:”my child is looking at me more”, “my child is looking at his environment differently”. Well, this is no longer something we can criticised as wishful thinking, it’s something we can now measure. And this sort of measurement will truly guide us in providing the best interventions for these children.

Background Information: Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show an atypical behaviour in the way they respond to social information, such as facial expression and eye gaze.  For example, they have a pronounced tendency to avoid looking towards the eyes and instead focus more features, seen as non-informative by typically developing individuals, for example, the mouth and other peripheral issues.  Eye movement can be tracked and measured using devices. These devices are able to demonstrate atypical eye-movement in ASD and have the potentials to be reliable and sensitive as diagnostic tool in ASD.  However, their value and contribution in the diagnostic assessment of ASD needs to be assessed.

Several new paradigms have been developed at AT+ Research and we are aiming to compare the measurements obtained across these paradigms to those obtained from standardised assessments of autism (ADOS, GARS, Vineland). The aims are in first instance to establish the sensitivity and reliability of these Eye Track Positioning measurements and the usefulness of these tools to monitor the progression of ASD individuals.

Eye Position Tracking Paradigms:

  • Measurement of the child’s ability to focus on a moving object (visual field, rapidity of response, attention);
  • Measurement of the child’s ability to engage with mother (response to name, engagement through eye contact, duration, speed of response, level of attention);
  • Measurement of the child’s ability to engage with an unfamiliar examiner (same parameters evaluated than when interacting with his mother);
  • Measurement of child’s ability to attend to a 2 minute video clip of woman singing a familiar song compared to the child’s ability to attend to a 2 minute unfamiliar story (age appropriate). Recording of selective attention to eyes, versus mouth or other distracters (hearings and necklace, hair);
  • Measurement of ability to recognise and attend to a face embedded in a landscape picture.
  • Measurement of ability to respond to conventional and non-conventional gesture.
  • Measurement of ability to follow eye gaze and point of both the child’s mother and unfamiliar examiner.

Environmental factors, the subject’s mood, health and adaption to the test are also factors which may influence the test.  These will need to be assessed and addressed.

Call for participants

If you are interested in enrolling your child, please contact us. The assessment will involve an interview with the parents lasting about 2hr and a 30 min session with the children. The Eye Tracking measurement itself will only take 2-3 minutes, but we need to ensure the child is comfortable and happy in the clinical setting. The study will take place in Edinburgh and Stirling University so travelling to these locations will be required. Anticipated starting time, Jan-April 2014.

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  1. Pingback: Happy Christmas to all from AT+ and more good news! - Autism Treatment Plus

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