Eye-tracking is a well-established research tool that can be used to study social cognition in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous work at the Yale Child Study Center has shown that eye-tracking techniques are robust measures of atypical social-information processing across the lifespan in individuals with ASD.
For the past 10 years, Frederick Shic, an Associate Professor at University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Research Institute, has been designing new and innovative ways to acquire and analyze the complex signals obtained from eye-tracking systems, together with Katarzyna Chawarska, an expert in autism and visual social cognition. Shic and his collaborators are now focusing on the development of eye-tracking tools and paradigms for practical use.
Pamela Ventola, clinical director of the Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience at the Yale Child Study Center, directs a behavioral treatment program for individuals with ASD.
Shic and Ventola’s teams are collaborating on the current project, which aims to implement innovative eye-tracking paradigms measuring the direct effects of pivotal response treatment (PRT) in 4- to 7-year-old children with ASD over the course of a 16-week treatment period. They will also test the potential of augmenting the accessibility of eye-tracking technologies by providing participants with mobile tablets equipped with paradigms designed for home monitoring.
Shic and Ventola will be among the first researchers to use an advanced, multi-paradigm and multi-system approach to evaluate the use of eye-tracking for treatment monitoring by pairing it with an evidence-based behavioral intervention. This work is a crucial step toward providing more sensitive, robust and accessible treatment monitoring for individuals with ASD and for outcome measures in clinical trials.