Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

Identifying prognostic biomarkers in toddlers with Autism

Elizabeth Bacon, PhD


BACKGROUND: Early detection of ASD has greatly improved allowing intervention to begin at a much earlier, critical time in development. However, many children show a varied response to treatment, and much work needs to be done to identify children that will respond best to current approaches as well as children that may benefit from an alternative intervention approach to improve outcomes for all children with this diagnosis.

GAP: Identifying prognostic biomarkers for autism has yet to be successful, however an eye tracking task (the GeoPref Test) that assesses visual preference for geometric or social images has been promising in identifying subgroups of children with ASD with differing severity at young ages. Further research is needed to determine if differences persist long term.

HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesize that children with ASD that showed preference for geometric images over social images during eye tracking when they were toddlers, will show greater impairments at age 6-12 years in social and cognitive functioning relative to toddlers that initially showed preference for social images during eye tracking, due to inattention to important social information in their environment.

METHODS: In previous research on the early identification of ASD, toddlers with ASD participated in the GeoPref Eye tracking paradigm at 12-48 months, and children were subgrouped based on their eye tracking profile. Long-term outcome of these subgroups will be evaluated including assessments of school placement, cognitive functioning, communication, social skills, independence, and eye tracking 5-9 years following their original eye tracking test (i.e. at age 6-12 years), and outcomes will be compared between groups.

RESULTS: Pending

IMPACT: The GeoPref Test highlights a biological marker that indicates a subtype of ASD and may also provide prognostic information. This will allow for individualized treatment plans to be developed to target the needs of each group that will propel us toward identifying and providing the most effective intervention possible.

Website Link: autism-center.ucsd.edu

Supervising Institution:
University of California, San Diego

Karen Pierce

Project Location:

Award Amount: