New Haven, Connecticut 06511

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

Purpose:

In the proposed pilot study, ASD+ toddlers will undergo Social Value Training (SVT) using a gaze-contingent eye-tracking paradigm in toddlers with elevated symptoms of ASD (ASD+) (n=48). SVT will be administered over a two-day period and the training effects will be assessed by changes in visual attention to high-value (HV) faces as compared to low-value (LV) faces between baseline, post-baseline, and a follow-up assessment using two tasks: a laboratory selective attention (LSA) task and real-world selective attention (RWSA) task. The investigators will also evaluate acceptability and feasibility of the value training and contribution of sex, nonverbal developmental level, and severity of autism symptoms to response to the training.


Study summary:

One of the markers of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in infants and toddlers is impaired selective attention to faces. This impairment diminishes their ability to learn from and interact adaptively with others in real-world environments. Attentional selection in the social domain relies, in part, on one's ability to encode reward values of people and store these values in long-term memory as stable values. The 'stable' values (henceforth, 'values') are learned over the course of repeated learning opportunities, and once acquired, they are signaled rapidly, preferentially directing gaze to encoded faces of importance (high-value, HV) based on their hedonic or informative properties in the past. Automatic responses based on values stored in long-term memory are essential for survival when decisions have to be made rapidly (e.g., mother versus stranger). Learning about values is subserved by the reward learning system in the brain involving basal ganglia (BG) circuitry. This circuitry is implicated in the pathophysiology of ASD and extant evidence suggests that individuals with ASD exhibit specific impairments in learning the reward value of social stimuli such as faces. Based on this evidence, the investigators propose that limited attention to faces in toddlers with elevated autism symptoms (ASD+) is, in part, driven by impaired value learning in the social domain, affecting their ability to rapidly and preferentially select HV faces and ignore low-value (LV) faces in the complex real-world environment. Consequently, they exhibit diminished spontaneous attention to faces in general, and when they look at faces, they may distribute their limited attentional resources between high- (e.g., mother or therapist) and low-value (stranger) individuals in a trial-and-error fashion. The investigators further hypothesize that reinforcing attention of children with ASD+ toward specific faces through social value training (SVT) will increase their attention to these faces in real-world environments. In the proposed pilot study, ASD+ toddlers will undergo Social Value Training (SVT) using a gaze-contingent eye-tracking paradigm in toddlers with elevated symptoms of ASD (ASD+) (n=48). SVT will be administered over a two-day period and the training effects will be assessed by changes in visual attention to high-value (HV) faces as compared to low-value (LV) faces between baseline, post-baseline, and a follow-up assessment using two tasks: a laboratory selective attention (LSA) task and real-world selective attention (RWSA) task. The investigators will also evaluate acceptability and feasibility of the value training and contribution of sex, nonverbal developmental level, and severity of autism symptoms to response to the training.


Criteria:

Inclusion Criteria: - Singleton pregnancy - Gestational age of 37-42 weeks - Appropriate weight for gestational age - Presence of an older full biological sibling with ASD - Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2) score at 18 months in the clinical range (calibrated severity score >3) Exclusion Criteria: - Congenital infections - Non-febrile seizure disorder - Hearing loss - Visual impairment - Presence of any known chromosomal abnormality or congenital infection - Prenatal exposure to illicit drugs - Major psychotic disorder in first degree relatives.


NCT ID:

NCT03556826


Primary Contact:

Principal Investigator
Katarzyna Chawarska, PhD
Social and Affective Neuroscience of Autism Program, Yale Child Study Center

Katarzyna Chawarska, PhD
Phone: 203 499 8943
Email: katarzyna.chawarska@yale.edu


Backup Contact:

Email: erin.barney@yale.edu
Erin Barney, BS


Location Contact:

New Haven, Connecticut 06511
United States

Katarzyna Chawarska, PhD
Phone: 203-499-8943
Email: katarzyna.chawarska@yale.edu

Site Status: Recruiting


Data Source: ClinicalTrials.gov

Date Processed: June 17, 2021

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