NeuroDevNet post-doctoral fellow and investigators publish new findings on attention in infants with ASD

January 9, 2014

Sticky attention in babies is an early sign of autism in siblings of children already diagnosed with the disorder.

New research published by Post-Doctoral Fellow Lori Sacrey and Network Investigators Lonnie Zwaigenbaum and Susan Bryson documents lack of interest in shifting focus persists longer in babies later diagnosed with ASD than in typically developing peers.

The study, published in Behavioural Brain Research found babies who were later diagnosed tended to stare at objects after picking them up at much later ages than controls. Previous studies have identified this kind of sticky attention persisting at one year of age. Sacrey and colleagues followed the development of sticky attention over time in babies from families where a sibling has already been diagnosed with ASD, as well as controls.

In the sibling group, sticky attention continued well past 12 months of age. The researchers found that 36 percent of babies with autistic siblings still had trouble shifting focus at 24 months. By the age of three, toddlers diagnosed with ASD switched their focus almost as often as typically developing children do, according to the study.

To read more about the study, as well as gaze research by Investigator Mayada Elsabbagh, visit the Simons Foundation for Autism Research Initiative website.