Visual Exploration in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Exploring Age Differences and Dynamic Features Using Recurrence Quantification Analysis

Abstract: Eye‐tracking studies have demonstrated that individuals with autism spectrum disorder sometimes show differences in attention and gaze patterns. This includes preference for certain nonsocial objects, heightened attention to detail, and more difficulty with attention shifting and disengagement, which may be associated with restricted and repetitive behaviors. This study utilized a visual exploration task and replicates findings of reduced number of objects explored and increased fixation duration on high autism interest objects in a large sample of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (n = 129, age 6–54 years) in comparison with a typically developing group. These findings correlated with parent‐reported repetitive behaviors. Additionally, we applied recurrent quantification analysis to enable identification of new eye‐tracking features, which accounted for temporal and spatial differences in viewing patterns. These new features were found to discriminate between autism spectrum disorder and typically developing groups and were correlated with parent‐reported repetitive behaviors. Original and novel eye‐tracking features identified by recurrent quantification analysis differed in their relationships to reported behaviors and were dependent on age.

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