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, director of the Technology and Innovation Laboratory at the Yale Child Study Center, 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.