Difficulties in visual attention are often implicated in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) but it remains unclear which aspects of attention are affected. Here, we used a multiple object tracking (MOT) task to quantitatively characterize dynamic attentional function in children with ASD aged 5-12. While the ASD group performed significantly worse overall, the group difference did not increase with increased object speed. This finding suggests that decreased MOT performance is not due to deficits in dynamic attention but instead to a diminished capacity to select and maintain attention on multiple targets. Further, MOT performance improved from 5 to 10 years in both typical and ASD groups with similar developmental trajectories. These results argue against a specific deficit in dynamic attention in ASD.
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Acknowledgments The authors would especially like to thank all the participants and their families for their time and contribution to our research. We are grateful to all of the families at the participating SFARI Simplex Collection (SSC) sites, as well as the principal investigators (A. Beaudet, R. Bernier, J. Constantino, E. Cook, E. Fombonne, D. Geschwind, E. Hanson, D. Grice, A. Klin, R. Kochel, D. Ledbetter, C. Lord, C. Martin, D. Martin, R. Maxim, J. Miles, O. Ousley, K. Pelphrey, B. Peterson, J. Piggot, C. Saulnier, M. State, W. Stone, J. Sutcliffe, C. Walsh, Z. Warren, E. Wijsman). We are also grateful to all of the families participating in the Autism Consortium collection, as well as the principal investigators. This study was supported by funds from the Ellison Medical Foundation and by a grant from the Simons Foundation to the Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT.
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Cognitive development
- Dynamic attention
- Multiple object tracking
- Spatial attention