Pubmed du 23/10/18

mardi 23 octobre 2018

1. Bradford EEF, Hukker V, Smith L, Ferguson HJ. Belief-attribution in adults with and without autistic spectrum disorders. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. 2018.

An important aspect of daily life is the ability to infer information about the contents of other people’s minds, such as what they can see and what they know, in order to engage in successful interactions. This is referred to as possession of a "Theory of Mind" (ToM). Past research has shown that adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often show deficits in social communication abilities, although can successfully pass tests of explicit ToM. The current study utilized a computerized false-belief task to explore subtle differences (i.e., measuring response times and accuracy rates) in how efficiently ToM capacities-specifically, belief-attribution-are utilized in adults with and without ASD. In the task, participants were asked to attribute a belief-state to either themselves or another person, following establishment of a true or false-belief scenario. Results revealed comparable patterns of ToM engagement across individuals with and without ASD, with faster and more accurate responses to "Self" versus "Other" oriented questions, and slower response times when shifting between the "Self" and "Other" perspective compared to when maintaining a perspective. However, autistic individuals showed a particular deficit in correctly identifying a belief-state in false-belief trials, in which two contrasting belief-states had to be held in mind, suggesting more difficulty disengaging from current, reality based belief-states than neuro-typical individuals. Autism Res 2018. (c) 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY : To successfully communicate, we have to think about what other people do/do not know ; this is called having a "Theory of Mind." This study looked at how well people use their Theory of Mind when thinking about the contents of people’s minds. Results showed that people with autism had difficulties considering more than one mental state at a time, suggesting they may have more trouble in stopping themselves thinking about what is happening in reality than people without autism.

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2. Chambers NJ, de Vries PJ, Delehanty AD, Wetherby AM. Feasibility of utilizing autism navigator(R) for primary care in South Africa. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. 2018.

There is a significant research-to-practice gap in early detection of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) worldwide but particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where expertise is limited and high-quality training is difficult to access. Autism Navigator(R) for Primary Care is a web-based course designed to increase awareness of red flags of ASD in the second year of life and thus promote earlier detection and referral for intervention. It contains extensive video illustrations that offer rapid access to multiple exemplars of ASD red flags. This study examined aspects of feasibility of the Autism Navigator(R) for Primary Care in one LMIC, South Africa. A mixed-methods quasi-experimental design was used to examine relevant professionals’ implementation of the course and measure changes in their knowledge of red flags after training. Perceptions of the acceptability, demand, and practicality of the course were explored in focus groups. Sixty-two providers completed the course online with a 94% completion rate. Built-in learner assessment pass rates ranged from 88% to 100%. Second-language English speakers took longer to complete the learner assessments, and professionals with less access to the Internet spent less time in the course. Participants’ perceptions of the acceptability, demand, and practicality of the course were mostly positive with some suggestions made for local conditions. Results supported the feasibility of the course in this LMIC with some supports required pertaining to language and Internet access. We propose that this training has the potential to lower the age of detection of ASD in South Africa and other LMICs. Autism Research 2018. (c) 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY : Professionals in low- and middle-income countries urgently need training to recognize red flags of autism in very young children. The feasibility of utilizing the Autism Navigator(R) for Primary Care course for this training was explored with 62 South African professionals. After training, professionals’ knowledge of early red flags improved, and most reported the course important and needed in South Africa. They found the web-based design mostly acceptable, practical, and culturally applicable. The course could help lower the age of autism detection.

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3. Esteban-Figuerola P, Canals J, Fernandez-Cao JC, Arija Val V. Differences in food consumption and nutritional intake between children with autism spectrum disorders and typically developing children : A meta-analysis. Autism : the international journal of research and practice. 2018 : 1362361318794179.

Children with autism spectrum disorders show higher food selectivity, which restricts consumption of some foods and may cause nutritional deficiencies. The aims of this meta-analysis are to determine the overall differences in nutritional intake and food consumption between children with autism spectrum disorder and control (typical development) children, as well as determine the extent to which the nutritional intake and food consumption of autistic children comply with the dietary recommendations. Children with autism spectrum disorder consume less protein (standardized mean difference = -0.27, 95% confidence interval (-0.45, -0.08)), calcium (-0.56 (-0.95, -0.16)), phosphorus (-0.23 (-0.41, -0.04)), selenium (-0.29 (-0.44, -0.13)), vitamin D (-0.34 (-0.57, -0.11)), thiamine (-0.17 (-0.29, -0.05)), riboflavin (-0.25 (-0.45, -0.05)) and vitamin B12 (-0.52 (-0.95, -0.09)) and more polyunsaturated fat acid (0.27 (0.11, 0.44)) and vitamin E (0.28 (0.03, 0.54)) than controls. Autistic children also consume less omega-3 (-0.83 (-1.53, -0.16)) and more fruit (0.35 (0.12, 0.59)) and vegetables (0.35 (0.09, 0.61)) than control children ; however, these results must be considered with care due to the low number of studies included in the analysis and the high heterogeneity. The results also suggest a lower intake of calcium, vitamin D and dairy and a higher intake of fruit, vegetables, protein, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B12 than recommended.

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4. Friedman L, Lorang E, Sterling A. The use of demonstratives and personal pronouns in fragile X syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. Clinical linguistics & phonetics. 2018 : 1-17.

Demonstratives (e.g. here, that, these) and personal pronouns are early developing components of language, which are often impaired in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Additionally, demonstrative and personal pronoun use are linked to joint attention and language ability early in life for individuals with ASD. Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a genetic disorder with a significant amount of overlap in its behavioural phenotype with ASD. The present study examined demonstrative and personal pronoun production during a conversation sample in adolescent boys with ASD and adolescent boys with FXS with a co-diagnosis of ASD (FXS+ASD). Findings indicated that grammatical complexity was related to both qualitative and quantitative aspects of demonstrative and personal pronoun production in boys with ASD, while grammatical complexity was related to the total number of demonstratives and personal pronouns produced in the boys with FXS+ASD. ASD severity was not related to demonstrative or personal pronoun production in ASD, although it was negatively correlated with the total number of personal pronouns produced by the boys with FXS. Additionally, groups did not differ significantly in production of personal pronouns, but they did differ significantly in multiple aspects of demonstrative use. Findings suggest that these groups produce similar rates of personal pronouns in the school-age years, while production of demonstratives differentiates these groups. This study contributes to the knowledge of the language phenotypes of idiopathic ASD and FXS+ASD, and provides implications for intervention targets for school-age children with these disorders.

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5. Govind N. Family Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Issues in mental health nursing. 2018 : 1-2.

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6. Guo Z, Xie HQ, Zhang P, Luo Y, Xu T, Liu Y, Fu H, Xu L, Valsami-Jones E, Boksa P, Zhao B. Dioxins as potential risk factors for autism spectrum disorder. Environment international. 2018 ; 121(Pt 1) : 906-15.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has emerged as a major public health concern due to its fast-growing prevalence in recent decades. Environmental factors are thought to contribute substantially to the variance in ASD. Interest in environmental toxins as causes of ASD has arisen due to the high sensitivity of the developing human brain to toxic chemicals, particularly to dioxin and certain dioxin-like compounds (dioxins). As a group of typical persistent organic pollutants, dioxins have been found to exert adverse effects on human brain development. In this paper, we review the evidence for association of exposure to dioxins with neurodevelopmental abnormalities related to ASD based on both human epidemiological and animal studies. It has been documented that exposure to dioxins during critical developmental periods increased risk for ASD. This notion has been demonstrated in different populations exposed to high or background level of dioxins. Furthermore, the effects and mechanisms of action of dioxins relevant to the pathophysiology and pathogenesis of ASD are summarized, describing potential underlying mechanisms linking dioxin exposure with ASD onset. Further studies focusing on effects of prenatal/perinatal exposure to individual dioxin congeners or to mixtures of dioxins on ASD-associated behavioral and neurobiological consequences in animal models, and on the mechanisms of actions of dioxins, are needed in order to better understand how dioxin exposure might contribute to increased risk for ASD.

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7. Hamilton CJ, Mammarella IC, Giofre D. Autistic-like traits in children are associated with enhanced performance in a qualitative visual working memory task. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. 2018.

Prior research has suggested that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) demonstrate heterogeneity in cognitive efficacy, challenged executive resources but efficient visual processing. These contrasts lead to opposing predictions about visuospatial working memory competency in both ASD and the broader autism phenotype (BAP) ; compromised by constrained executive processes, but potentially scaffolded by effective visual representation. It is surprising therefore, that there is a paucity of visual working memory (VWM) research in both the ASD and BAP populations, which have focused upon the visual features of the to-be-remembered stimulus. We assessed whether individual differences in VWM were associated with autistic-like traits (ALTs) in the BAP. About 76 children carried out the Visual Just Noticeable Difference task, designed to measure high fidelity feature representation within VWM. ALTs were measured with the Children’s Empathy Quotient and Systemizing Quotient. Analyses revealed a significant positive relationship between Systemizing and VWM performance. This complements ASD studies in visual processing and highlights the need for further research on the working memory-long-term memory interface in ASD and BAP populations. Autism Research 2018. (c) 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY : This study was interested in how well children with high levels of autistic-like traits (ALTs) carry out a task which involved memorizing, for brief time, the precise size of colored shapes. The results suggested that children with high levels of ALTs performed the task relatively well. This finding is in contrast to many previous studies suggest that ALTs are associated with poor memory, and suggests that future research needs to look more finely at how individuals carry out these tasks.

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8. Hughes JEA, Ward J, Gruffydd E, Baron-Cohen S, Smith P, Allison C, Simner J. Savant syndrome has a distinct psychological profile in autism. Molecular autism. 2018 ; 9 : 53.

Background : Savant syndrome is a condition where prodigious talent can co-occur with developmental conditions such as autism spectrum conditions (autism). It is not yet clear why some autistic people develop savant skills while others do not. Methods : We tested three groups of adults : autistic individuals who have savant skills, autistic individuals without savant skills, and typical controls without autism or savant syndrome. In experiment 1, we investigated the cognitive and behavioural profiles of these three groups by asking participants to complete a battery of self-report measures of sensory sensitivity, obsessional behaviours, cognitive styles, and broader autism-related traits including social communication and systemising. In experiment 2, we investigated how our three groups learned a novel savant skill-calendar calculation. Results : Heightened sensory sensitivity, obsessional behaviours, technical/spatial abilities, and systemising were all key aspects in defining the savant profile distinct from autism alone, along with a different approach to task learning. Conclusions : These results reveal a unique cognitive and behavioural profile in autistic adults with savant syndrome that is distinct from autistic adults without a savant skill.

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9. Lashewicz B, Boettcher N, Lo A, Shipton L, Parrott B. Fathers Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder : Stories of Marital Stability as Key to Parenting Success. Issues in mental health nursing. 2018 : 1-9.

Using media reports of high divorce rates among couples of children with ASD as a point of departure, our purpose in this paper is to examine how married fathers of children with ASD understand their marriages relative to the demands of ASD and in the context of media reports of elevated divorce rates among parents raising children with ASD. We begin with a review of select literature pertaining to the impact of ASD on marriages and we include a brief account of popular media portrayals of the influence of having a child with a developmental disability, and ASD in particular, on marriages. We then describe our qualitative examination of narrative interview data from 26 married fathers raising children with ASD aged 2-13 beginning with our theoretical anchoring in social comparison to focus our attention on how fathers compare themselves with media accounts of elevated divorce rates among parents of children and also with other hypothetical family configurations. Our findings are evidence of fathers’ strong and strengthened commitments to marriages and we illustrate a re-purposing of inflated portrayals of divorce rates to shore up fathers’ sense of their own effectiveness as husbands and fathers.

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10. Qing B, Canovic EP, Mijailovic AS, Jagielska A, Whitfield MJ, Lowe AL, Kelly EH, Turner D, Sahin M, Van Vliet K. PROBING MECHANICAL PROPERTIES OF BRAIN IN A TUBEROUS SCLEROSIS MODEL OF AUTISM. Journal of biomechanical engineering. 2018.

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are understood poorly, making diagnosis and treatment challenging. While many studies have investigated the biochemical and genetic aspects of ASD, whether and how mechanical characteristics of the autistic brain can modulate neuronal connectivity and cognition in ASD are unknown. Previously, it has been shown that ASD brains are characterized by abnormal white matter and disorganized neuronal connectivity ; we hypothesized that these significant cellular-level structural changes may translate to changes in the mechanical properties of the autistic brain or regions therein. Here, we focused on tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a genetic disorder with a high penetrance of ASD. We investigated mechanical differences between murine brains obtained from control and TSC cohorts at various deformation length- and time-scales. At the microscale, we conducted creep-compliance and stress relaxation experiments using atomic force microscope-enabled indentation. At the mesoscale, we conducted impact indentation using a pendulum-based instrumented indenter to extract mechanical energy dissipation metrics. At the macroscale, we used oscillatory shear rheology to quantify the frequency-dependent shear moduli. Despite significant changes in the cellular organization of TSC brain tissue, we found no corresponding changes in the quantified mechanical properties at every length- and time-scale explored. This investigation of the mechanical characteristics of the brain has broadened our understanding of causes and markers of TSC/ASD, while raising questions about whether any mechanical differences can be detected in other animal models of ASD or other disease models that also feature abnormal brain structure.

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11. R EW, Zhang Y, Gray T, Abbacchi A, Cormier D, Todorov A, Constantino JN. Autism-Related Variation in Reciprocal Social Behavior : A Longitudinal Study. Child development. 2018.

Deficits in reciprocal social behavior are a characterizing feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism-related variation in reciprocal social behavior (AVR) in the general population is continuously distributed and highly heritable-a function of additive genetic influences that overlap substantially with those which engender clinical autistic syndromes. This is the first long-term prospective study of the stability of AVR from childhood through early adulthood, conducted via serial ratings using the Social Responsiveness Scale, in a cohort-sequential study involving children with ASD, other psychiatric conditions, and their siblings (N = 602, ages = 2.5-29). AVR exhibits marked stability throughout childhood in individuals with and without ASD.

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12. Roemer EJ, West KL, Northrup JB, Iverson JM. Word comprehension mediates the link between gesture and word production : Examining language development in infant siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Developmental science. 2018 : e12767.

Children’s gesture production precedes and predicts language development, but the pathways linking these domains are unclear. It is possible that gesture production assists in children’s developing word comprehension, which in turn supports expressive vocabulary acquisition. The present study examines this mediation pathway in a population with variability in early communicative abilities - the younger siblings of children with ASD (High Risk infants ; HR). Participants included 92 HR infants and 28 infants at low risk (LR) for ASD. A primary caregiver completed the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (Fenson et al., 1993) at 12, 14, and 18 months, and HR infants received a diagnostic evaluation for ASD at 36 months. Word comprehension at 14 months mediated the relationship between 12-month gesture and 18-month word production in LR and HR infants (ab = .263 ; p < .01). For LR infants and HR infants with no diagnosis or language delay, gesture was strongly associated with word comprehension (as = .666 ; .646 ; .561 ; ps < .01). However, this relationship did not hold for infants later diagnosed with ASD (a = .073 ; p = .840). This finding adds to a growing literature suggesting that children with ASD learn language differently. Furthermore, this study provides an initial step towards testing the developmental pathways by which infants transition from early actions and gestures to expressive language. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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13. Sharda M, Tuerk C, Chowdhury R, Jamey K, Foster N, Custo-Blanch M, Tan M, Nadig A, Hyde K. Music improves social communication and auditory-motor connectivity in children with autism. Translational psychiatry. 2018 ; 8(1) : 231.

Music has been identified as a strength in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder ; however, there is currently no neuroscientific evidence supporting its benefits. Given its universal appeal, intrinsic reward value and ability to modify brain and behaviour, music may be a potential therapeutic aid in autism. Here we evaluated the neurobehavioural outcomes of a music intervention, compared to a non-music control intervention, on social communication and brain connectivity in school-age children (ISRCTN26821793). Fifty-one children aged 6-12 years with autism were randomized to receive 8-12 weeks of music (n = 26) or non-music intervention (n = 25). The music intervention involved use of improvisational approaches through song and rhythm to target social communication. The non-music control was a structurally matched behavioural intervention implemented in a non-musical context. Groups were assessed before and after intervention on social communication and resting-state functional connectivity of fronto-temporal brain networks. Communication scores were higher in the music group post-intervention (difference score = 4.84, P = .01). Associated post-intervention resting-state brain functional connectivity was greater in music vs. non-music groups between auditory and subcortical regions (z = 3.94, P < .0001) and auditory and fronto-motor regions (z = 3.16, P < .0001). Post-intervention brain connectivity was lower between auditory and visual regions in the music compared to the non-music groups, known to be over-connected in autism (z = 4.01, P < .00001). Post-intervention brain connectivity in the music group was related to communication improvement (z = 3.57, P < .0001). This study provides the first evidence that 8-12 weeks of individual music intervention can indeed improve social communication and functional brain connectivity, lending support to further investigations of neurobiologically motivated models of music interventions in autism.

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14. Stephens RL, Watson LR, Crais ER, Reznick JS. Infant quantitative risk for autism spectrum disorder predicts executive function in early childhood. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. 2018.

Much of the current research concerning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) focuses on early identification of behaviors that may indicate future deficits or higher risk for a later diagnosis. Additionally, there exists a strong claim regarding the dimensional nature of ASD, such that even among non-diagnosed individuals, a continuous distribution of symptom severity can be observed. Executive function (EF) has been widely studied in children, adolescents, and adults with ASD, with a robust body of research supporting widespread EF deficits in diagnosed individuals. However, it remains unclear how the degree of ASD symptomatology, outside of the presence of a diagnosis, affects EF abilities in a community sample. The First Year Inventory 2.0 (FYI 2.0), a parent-report measure, was designed to identify infants at 12 months who are at risk for an eventual ASD diagnosis. In the current study, a continuous scoring scale was used to examine risk (overall, Social-Communication, and Sensory-Regulatory) from a dimensional perspective. Parents also completed the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Preschool Version and the Social Responsiveness Scale-2nd edition when their children were 42 months (3.5 years) old. Each FYI 2.0 risk variable significantly predicted scores on an overall EF composite and specific EF subscales. When controlling for general ASD symptomatology, Sensory-Regulatory risk still significantly predicted EF deficits. This research provides additional support for a quantitative consideration of risk for ASD and presents novel findings regarding the relation between infant behaviors indicative of ASD risk and EF in early childhood. Autism Research 2018. (c) 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY : Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty with executive function (EF) tasks that require a set of mental processes involved in goal-directed behaviors. Studying children without ASD who may have symptoms affecting EF is also important. This study demonstrates that certain infant behaviors related to ASD are linked to early childhood EF difficulties. These results support looking at a range of ASD symptoms to better understand children who struggle with EF and potentially design tools to help them.

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15. Vaskinn A, Abu-Akel A. The interactive effect of autism and psychosis severity on theory of mind and functioning in schizophrenia. Neuropsychology. 2018.

OBJECTIVE : Autism and schizophrenia are characterized by impairments in social cognition and functioning. They can co-occur at both the trait/symptom and diagnostic levels. We investigated the concurrent effect of autism and psychotic symptom severity on social cognition and functioning in schizophrenia. METHOD : Individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were included (N = 81 ; 32 women). Symptoms were measured with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale using the Positive subscale (PANSSpos ; Kay, Fiszbein, & Opler, 1987) and the PANSS Autism Severity Score (PAUSS ; Kastner et al., 2015). Theory of mind (ToM) was assessed with the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC ; Dziobek et al., 2006), which yields scores for three error types : overmentalizing, undermentalizing, and no mentalizing. Functioning was assessed with the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF-f ; Pedersen, Hagtvet, & Karterud, 2007) and the Social Functioning Scale (SFS ; Birchwood, Smith, Cochrane, Wetton, & Copestake, 1990). The sample was bimodally distributed and therefore divided into low and high PAUSS groups. We used generalized linear models to examine the effect of PANSSpos, PAUSS, and their interaction on GAF-f, SFS, and MASC scores. RESULTS : For the entire cohort, the PANSSpos x PAUSS interaction was significantly associated with better GAF-f (p = .005), SFS (p = .029), and overall ToM (p = .035), and for the high-PAUSS group, with reduced overmentalizing errors (p = .002), resulting in better overall ToM. CONCLUSION : Concurrent elevated levels of autism and positive psychotic symptoms seem to benefit functioning and social cognition in schizophrenia. The results are consistent with the diametric model, which posits that autism and schizophrenia are characterized by opposing patterns in mentalizing, and promote the radical idea that the presence of both disorders may be associated with attenuated impairments. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

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16. Wolff JJ, Dimian AF, Botteron KN, Dager SR, Elison JT, Estes AM, Hazlett HC, Schultz RT, Zwaigenbaum L, Piven J. A longitudinal study of parent-reported sensory responsiveness in toddlers at-risk for autism. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines. 2018.

BACKGROUND : Atypical sensory responsivity and sensory interests are now included in the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) under the broad domain of restricted and repetitive behavior (RRB). However, relatively little is known about the emergence of sensory-related features and their relation to conventionally defined RRB in the first years of life. METHODS : Prospective, longitudinal parent-report data using the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ) were collected for 331 high-risk toddlers (74 of whom met diagnostic criteria for ASD at age 2) and 135 low-risk controls. Longitudinal profiles for SEQ scores were compared between groups across ages 12-24 months. Associations between SEQ measures and measures of RRB subtypes (based on the Repetitive Behavior Scale, Revised) were also examined. RESULTS : Longitudinal profiles for all SEQ scores significantly differed between groups. SEQ scores were elevated for the ASD group from age 12 months, with differences becoming more pronounced across the 12-24 month interval. At both 12 and 24 months, most measures derived from the SEQ were significantly associated with all subtypes of RRB. CONCLUSIONS : These findings suggest that differences in sensory responsivity may be evident in high-risk infants later diagnosed with ASD in early toddlerhood, and that the magnitude of these differences increases over the second year of life. The high degree of association between SEQ scores and RRB supports the conceptual alignment of these features but also raises questions as to explanatory mechanisms.

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17. Zhao H, Swanson AR, Weitlauf AS, Warren ZE, Sarkar N. Hand-in-Hand : A Communication-Enhancement Collaborative Virtual Reality System for Promoting Social Interaction in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. IEEE transactions on human-machine systems. 2018 ; 48(2) : 136-48.

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often exhibit impairments in communication and social interaction, and thus face various social challenges in collaborative activities. Given the cost of ASD intervention and lack of access to trained clinicians, technology-assisted ASD intervention has gained momentum in recent years. In this paper, we present a novel collaborative virtual environment (CVE) based social interaction platform for ASD intervention. The development of CVE technology for ASD intervention may lead to the creation of a novel low-cost intervention environment that will foster collaboration with peers and provide flexibility in communication. The presented Communication-Enhancement CVE system, Hand-in-Hand, allows two children to play a series of interactive games in a virtual reality environment by using simple hand gestures to collaboratively move virtual objects that are tracked in real-time via cameras. Further, these games are designed to promote natural communication and cooperation between the users via the presented Communication-Enhancement mode that allows users to share information and discuss game strategies using gaze and voice based communication. The results of a feasibility study with 12 children with ASD and 12 typically developing peers show that this system was well accepted by both the children with and without ASD, improved their cooperation in game play, and demonstrated the potential for fostering their communication and collaboration skills.

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18. Zheng Z, Zhao H, Swanson AR, Weitlauf AS, Warren ZE, Sarkar N. Design, Development, and Evaluation of a Noninvasive Autonomous Robot-mediated Joint Attention Intervention System for Young Children with ASD. IEEE transactions on human-machine systems. 2018 ; 48(2) : 125-35.

Research indicates that human-robot interaction can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While most early robot-mediated interaction studies were based on free interactions, recent studies have shown that robot-mediated interventions that focus on the core impairments of ASD such as joint attention deficit tend to produce better outcomes. Joint attention impairment is one of the core deficits in ASD that has an important impact in the neuropsychological development of these children. In this work, we propose a novel joint attention intervention system for children with ASD that overcomes several existing limitations in this domain such as the need to use body-worn sensors, non-autonomous robot operation requiring human involvement and lack of a formal model for robot-mediated joint attention interaction. We present a fully autonomous robotic system, called NORRIS, that can infer attention through a distributed non-contact gaze inference mechanism with an embedded Least-to-Most (LTM) robot-mediated interaction model to address the current limitations. The system was tested in a multi-session user study with 14 young children with ASD. The results showed that participants’ joint attention skills improved significantly, their interest in the robot remained consistent throughout the sessions, and the LTM interaction model was effective in promoting the children’s performance.

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19. Zhou P, Ma W, Zhan L, Ma H. Using the Visual World Paradigm to Study Sentence Comprehension in Mandarin-Speaking Children with Autism. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2018 ; (140).

Sentence comprehension relies on the ability to rapidly integrate different types of linguistic and non-linguistic information. However, there is currently a paucity of research exploring how preschool children with autism understand sentences using different types of cues. The mechanisms underlying sentence comprehension remains largely unclear. The present study presents a protocol to examine the sentence comprehension abilities of preschool children with autism. More specifically, a visual world paradigm of eye-tracking is used to explore the moment-to-moment sentence comprehension in the children. The paradigm has multiple advantages. First, it is sensitive to the time course of sentence comprehension and thus can provide rich information about how sentence comprehension unfolds over time. Second, it requires minimal task and communication demands, so it is ideal for testing children with autism. To further minimize the computational burden of children, the present study measures eye movements that arise as automatic responses to linguistic input rather than measuring eye movements that accompany conscious responses to spoken instructions.

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