Oculomotor behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders

Autism. 2020 Apr;24(3):670-679. doi: 10.1177/1362361319882861. Epub 2019 Nov 2.


To identify quantitative indicators of social communication dysfunctions, we explored the oculomotor performances in subjects with autism spectrum disorders. Discordant findings in the literature have been reported for oculomotor behavior in subjects with autism spectrum disorders. This study aimed to explore reflexive and voluntary saccadic performance in a group of 32 children with autism spectrum disorders (mean age: 12.1 ± 0.5 years) compared to 32 age-, sex-, and IQ-matched typically developing children (control group). We used different types of reflexive and voluntary saccades: gap, step, overlap, and anti-saccades. Eye movements were recorded using an eye tracker (Mobile EBT®) and we measured latency, percentage of anticipatory and express saccades, errors of anti-saccades and gain. Children with autism spectrum disorders reported similar latency values with respect to typically developing children for reflexive and voluntary saccades; in contrast, they made more express and anticipatory saccades overall, as shown in paradigm testing (gap, step, overlap, and anti-saccades). Our findings support previous evidence of the atypicality of the cortical network, which is involved in saccade triggering and attentional processes in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; children; express saccades; inhibitory mechanism; latency.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Eye Movements*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Saccades