Publications of Tucker, L.
Neural correlates of eye gaze processing in the infant broader autism phenotype
Background: Studies of infant siblings of children diagnosed with autism have allowed for a prospective approach to study the emergence of autism in infancy and revealed early behavioral characteristics of the broader autism phenotype. In view of previous findings of atypical eye gaze processing in children and adults with autism, the aim of this study was to examine the early autism phenotype in infant siblings of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (sib-ASD), focusing on the neural correlates of direct compared with averted gaze. Methods: A group of 19 sib-ASD was compared with 17 control infants with no family history of ASD (mean age = 10 months) on their response to direct versus averted gaze in static stimuli. Results: Relative to the control group, the sib-ASD group showed prolonged latency of the occipital P400 event-related potentials component in response to direct gaze, but they did not differ in earlier components. Similarly, time-frequency analysis of high-frequency oscillatory activity in the gamma band showed group differences in response to direct gaze, where induced gamma activity was late and less persistent over the right temporal region in the sib-ASD group. Conclusion: This study suggests that a broader autism phenotype, which includes an atypical response to direct gaze, is manifest early in infancy.
Visual orienting in the early broader autism phenotype: disengagement and facilitation
Recent studies of infant siblings of children diagnosed with autism have allowed for a prospective approach to examine the emergence of symptoms and revealed behavioral differences in the broader autism phenotype within the early years. In the current study we focused on a set of functions associated with visual attention, previously reported to be atypical in autism. We compared performance of a group of 9-10-month-old infant siblings of children with autism to a control group with no family history of autism on the 'gap-overlap task', which measures the cost of disengaging from a central stimulus in order to fixate a peripheral one. Two measures were derived on the basis of infants' saccadic reaction times. The first is the Disengagement effect, which measures the efficiency of disengaging from a central stimulus to orient to a peripheral one. The second was a Facilitation effect, which arises when the infant is cued by a temporal gap preceding the onset of the peripheral stimulus, and would orient faster after its onset. Infant siblings of children with autism showed longer Disengagement latencies as well as less Facilitation relative to the control group. The findings are discussed in relation to how differences in visual attention may relate to characteristics observed in autism and the broader phenotype.
Investigation of depth dependent changes in cerebral haemodynamics during face perception in infants
Near-infrared spectroscopy has been used to record oxygenation changes in the visual cortex of 4 month old infants. Our in-house topography system, with 30 channels and 3 different source–detector separations, recorded changes in the concentration of oxy-, deoxy- and total haemoglobin (HbO2, HHb and HbT) in response to visual stimuli (face, scrambled visual noise and cartoons as rest). The aim of this work was to demonstrate the capability of the system to spatially localize functional activation and study the possibility of depth discrimination in the haemodynamic response. The group data show both face stimulation and visual noise stimulation induced significant increases in HbO2 from rest, but the increase in HbO2 with face stimulation was not significantly different from that seen with visual noise stimulation. The face stimuli induced increases in HbO2 were spread across a greater area across all depths than visual noise induced changes. In results from a single subject there was a significant increase of HbO2 in the inferior area of the visual cortex in response to both types of stimuli, and a larger number of channels (source–detector pairs) showed HbO2 increase to face stimuli, especially at the greatest depth. Activation maps were obtained using 3D reconstruction methods on multi source–detector separation optical topography data.
Near infrared spectroscopy reveals neural activation during face perception in infants and adults
We used near infrared spectroscopy to measure changes in cerebral oxygenation in both human infants and adults as they viewed images of faces or control “visual noise” stimuli. At an occipital site, adults showed a significant increase in oxyhaemoglobin and a contrasting pattern of results was observed in infants. While the same general difference between the processing of the two stimuli was observed, a larger decrease in oxyhemoglobin concentration in response to faces than to visual noise was found in infants. These results demonstrate that near infrared spectroscopy can detect differences in stimulus processing induced by a complex visual stimulus in both infants and adults.