Relative Average Look Duration and its Association with Neurophysiological Activity in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by early attentional differences that often precede the hallmark symptoms of social communication impairments. Development of novel measures of attentional behaviors may lead to earlier identification of children at risk for ASD. In this work, we first introduce a behavioral measure, Relative Average Look Duration (RALD), indicating attentional preference to different stimuli, such as social versus nonsocial stimuli; and then study its association with neurophysiological activity. We show that (1) ASD and typically developing (TD) children differ in both (absolute) Average Look Duration (ALD) and RALD to stimuli during an EEG experiment, with the most pronounced differences in looking at social stimuli; and (2) associations between looking behaviors and neurophysiological activity, as measured by EEG, are different for children with ASD versus TD. Even when ASD children show attentional engagement to social content, our results suggest that their underlying brain activity is different than TD children. This study therefore introduces a new measure of social/nonsocial attentional preference in ASD and demonstrates the value of incorporating attentional variables measured simultaneously with EEG into the analysis pipeline.