Social and Non-Social Cueing of Visuospatial Attention in Autism and Typical Development

  • John R. PruettJr
  • Angela LaMacchia
  • Sarah Hoertel
  • Emma Squire
  • Kelly McVey
  • Richard D. Todd
  • John N. Constantino
  • Steven E. Petersen
Original Paper


Three experiments explored attention to eye gaze, which is incompletely understood in typical development and is hypothesized to be disrupted in autism. Experiment 1 (n = 26 typical adults) involved covert orienting to box, arrow, and gaze cues at two probabilities and cue-target times to test whether reorienting for gaze is endogenous, exogenous, or unique; experiment 2 (total n = 80: male and female children and adults) studied age and sex effects on gaze cueing. Gaze cueing appears endogenous and may strengthen in typical development. Experiment 3 tested exogenous, endogenous, and gaze-based orienting in 25 typical and 27 Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) children. ASD children made more saccades, slowing their reaction times; however, exogenous and endogenous orienting, including gaze cueing, appear intact in ASD.


Gaze Box Arrow Vision Oculomotor Child 



We thank all of the families who generously participated in this study. We thank Maggie M. Gross for study coordination and clinical assessments, Ansley Stanfill for technical support, Fran Miezin for computer engineering, and Patricia LaVesser for clinical assessments. Subjects were recruited with the assistance of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) Research Database at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins Medicine—Baltimore, sponsored by the Autism Speaks Foundation. We thank the Washington University School of Medicine Volunteers for Health (VFH) program; Autism Speaks; Missouri Families for Effective Autism Treatment (MO-FEAT); the Illinois Center for Autism; and other local research laboratories, clinics, schools, and community doctors’ offices for their help in advertising the studies. Research funding included: R21 MH079958, K12 EY16336, T32 DA07261 (John Pruett); The Blanch F. Ittleson Endowment Fund (Richard Todd); McDonnell Center for Higher Brain Function grant “Cueing visual-spatial attention with biologically-relevant versus non-biological stimuli in children and adults with and without autism” (Steve Petersen).

Conflict of Interest Statement

Drs. Pruett and Petersen report no biomedical financial interest or potential conflicts of interest. Dr. Todd is deceased but had no biomedical financial interest or potential conflicts of interest. Dr. Constantino receives royalties on the Social Responsiveness Scale, which is published and distributed by Western Psychological Services. Ms. LaMacchia, Ms. Hoertel, Ms. Squire, and Ms. McVey report no biomedical financial interest or potential conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10803_2010_1090_MOESM1_ESM.docx (375 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 375 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • John R. PruettJr
    • 1
  • Angela LaMacchia
    • 1
  • Sarah Hoertel
    • 1
  • Emma Squire
    • 1
  • Kelly McVey
    • 2
  • Richard D. Todd
    • 3
  • John N. Constantino
    • 4
  • Steven E. Petersen
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry (Child Division)Washington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Psychiatry (Child Division) and GeneticsWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Psychiatry (Child Division) and PediatricsWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Neurology, Radiology, and Anatomy and NeurobiologyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  6. 6.Departments of Psychology and Biomedical EngineeringWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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