Eye movement and visual search: are there elementary abnormalities in autism?

J Autism Dev Disord. 2007 Aug;37(7):1289-309. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0277-9. Epub 2006 Nov 21.


Although atypical eye gaze is commonly observed in autism, little is known about underlying oculomotor abnormalities. Our review of visual search and oculomotor systems in the healthy brain suggests that relevant networks may be partially impaired in autism, given regional abnormalities known from neuroimaging. However, direct oculomotor evidence for autism remains limited. This gap is critical since oculomotor abnormalities might play a causal role in functions known to be impaired in autism, such as imitation and joint attention. We integrate our oculomotor review into a developmental approach to language impairment related to nonverbal prerequisites. Oculomotor abnormalities may play a role as a sensorimotor defect at the root of impairments in later developing functional systems, ultimately resulting in sociocommunicative deficits.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Facial Expression
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Oculomotor Nerve Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Oculomotor Nerve Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Perceptual Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiopathology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Visual Perception*