Alterations in the development of attention control and learning have been associated with autism and can be measured using the ‘antisaccade task’, which assesses a child’s ability to make an oculomotor response away from a distracting stimulus, and learn to instead anticipate a later reward. We aimed to assess these cognitive processes using portable eye-tracking in an understudied population of pre-school children with and without a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in community settings in New Delhi, India. The eye-tracking antisaccade task was presented to children in three groups (n=104) (children with a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability and children meeting developmental milestones). In accordance with findings from high-income, laboratory- based environments, children learnt to anticipate looks towards a reward, as well as inhibit eye-movements towards a distractor stimulus. We also provide novel evidence that while differences in inhibition responses might be applicable to multiple developmental conditions, a reduced learning to anticipate looks towards a target in this age group may be specific to autism. This eye-tracking task may, therefore, have the potential to identify and assess autism specific traits across development, and be used in longitudinal research studies such as investigating response to intervention in low-resource settings.
- autism spectrum disorders
- cognition (attention, learning, memory)
- pre-school children