Brief Report: A Gaming Approach to the Assessment of Attention Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typical Development

Abstract

Attentional impairments are among the earliest identifiable features of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Three attention networks have been extensively studied using the attention network test (ANT), but this long and repetitive task may pose challenges for individuals with ASDs. The AttentionTrip was developed as a more engaging measure of attention network efficiency. In 20 adults with ASDs and 20 typically developing controls, both tasks produced typical network scores (all p < .003, all Cohen’s d > 0.78). Reaction time was less variable in the AttentionTrip than the ANT, possibly reflecting improved task engagement. Although the AttentionTrip elicited more consistent responses throughout an experimental session, anomalously low split-half reliability for its executive control network suggests that some changes may be needed.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Samona Davis, McKenna Wade, and Jackie Nguyen for their assistance with data collection, as well as the participants and their families who generously participated in this research. This work was supported by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship 1321850 (awarded to LEM), and NIMH R33 MH096967 (awarded to JT). Those interested in using the AttentionTrip may contact Dr. Raymond M. Klein at ray.klein@dal.ca for more information.

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LEM conceived of the study, coordinated data collection, performed clinical assessments and drafted the manuscript. RMK assisted with study design and data interpretation, and edited the manuscript. JT provided practical and theoretical guidance with respect to research design, implementation, and statistical analysis, and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lisa E. Mash.

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Mash, L.E., Klein, R.M. & Townsend, J. Brief Report: A Gaming Approach to the Assessment of Attention Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typical Development. J Autism Dev Disord 50, 2607–2615 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3635-5

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Keywords

  • Attention
  • Assessment
  • Autism
  • Neuropsychology
  • Adults