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Yale researchers discover mechanism for
Date:3/30/2009

lly-developing two-year-olds perceived human motion in these moving points of light. They saw people," said Jones. "But children with autism were insensitive to the socially relevant cues in that motion, and they focused instead on physical cues that typically-developing children disregarded."

Previous studies by the Yale team have shown that when looking at other people, toddlers with autism looked less at eyes and more at mouths. "The current results suggest something very important about that earlier research," said Klin. "Rather than looking at the social cues expressed in people's eyes, two-year-olds with autism may be paying attention, as in the current study, to synchronies between sound and motion. So rather than the eyes, they are focusing on the synchrony between lip motion and speech sounds."

"This suggests that from very early in life, children with autism are seeking experiences in the physical rather than the social world, and this in turn has far-reaching implications for the development of social mind and brain," said Jones.

The Yale group is now using this finding in their work with infant siblings of children with autism who are at greater genetic risk of also developing autism. "Because this mechanism emerges in the first days of life for typical children, we hope to use similar techniques to identify early signs of vulnerability in autism. This could be an aid for early diagnosis, which in turn allows for early intervention to maximize positive outcomes for these children," said Klin.

The next step is to study this phenomenon at earlier stages of development, and to combine the behavioral work with simultaneous neuroimaging through collaboration with another Yale colleague, Kevin Pelphrey.


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Contact: Karen N. Peart
karen.peart@yale.edu
203-432-1326
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert

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