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      Attention to Eyes is Present But in Decline in 2–6 Month-Olds Later Diagnosed with Autism

      1 , 2 , 3 , 1 , 2 , 3

      Nature

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          Abstract

          Deficits in eye contact have been a hallmark of autism 1, 2 since the condition’s initial description 3 . They are cited widely as a diagnostic feature 4 and figure prominently in clinical instruments 5 ; however, the early onset of these deficits has not been known. Here we show in a prospective longitudinal study that infants later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit mean decline in eye fixation within the first 2 to 6 months of life, a pattern not observed in infants who do not develop ASD. These observations mark the earliest known indicators of social disability in infancy, but also falsify a prior hypothesis: in the first months of life, this basic mechanism of social adaptive action—eye looking—is not immediately diminished in infants later diagnosed with ASD; instead, eye looking appears to begin at normative levels prior to decline. The timing of decline highlights a narrow developmental window and reveals the early derailment of processes that would otherwise play a key role in canalizing typical social development. Finally, the observation of this decline in eye fixation—rather than outright absence—offers a promising opportunity for early intervention, one that could build on the apparent preservation of mechanisms subserving reflexive initial orientation towards the eyes.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Advances in autism genetics: on the threshold of a new neurobiology.

          Autism is a heterogeneous syndrome defined by impairments in three core domains: social interaction, language and range of interests. Recent work has led to the identification of several autism susceptibility genes and an increased appreciation of the contribution of de novo and inherited copy number variation. Promising strategies are also being applied to identify common genetic risk variants. Systems biology approaches, including array-based expression profiling, are poised to provide additional insights into this group of disorders, in which heterogeneity, both genetic and phenotypic, is emerging as a dominant theme.
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            Functional Data Analysis for Sparse Longitudinal Data

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              Autistic disturbances of affective contact.

               L Kanner (1967)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                0410462
                6011
                Nature
                Nature
                Nature
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                18 April 2014
                06 November 2013
                19 December 2013
                19 June 2014
                : 504
                : 7480
                : 427-431
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia 30329, USA
                [2 ]Division of Autism & Related Disabilities, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30022, USA
                [3 ]Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30022, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to W.J. ( warren.jones@ 123456emory.edu ) or A.K. ( ami.klin@ 123456emory.edu )
                Article
                NIHMS527415
                10.1038/nature12715
                4035120
                24196715

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