Researchers have developed a new technique to help doctors more quickly and accurately detect autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada characterized how children with ASD scan a person’s face differently than a neuro-typical child.

They developed a technique that considers how a child with ASD gaze transitions from one part of a person’s face to another. The use of this technology, described in the journal Computers in Biology and Medicine, makes the diagnostic process less stressful for the children and if combined with existing manual methods could help doctors better avoid a false positive autism diagnosis.

“Many people are suffering from autism, and we need early diagnosis especially in children,” said Mehrshad Sadria, a master’s student in Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics. “The current approaches to determining if someone has autism are not really child-friendly. Our method allows for the diagnosis to be made more easily and with less possibility of mistakes,” said Sadria.

“The new technique can be used in all ASD diagnosis, but we believe it’s particularly effective for children,” Sadria said. The researchers evaluated 17 children with ASD and 23 neuro-typical children. The mean chronological ages of the ASD and neuro-typical groups were 5.5 and 4.8, respectively. Each participant was shown 44 photographs of faces on a 19-inch screen, integrated into an eye-tracking system.

The infrared device interpreted and identified the locations on the stimuli at which each child was looking via emission and reflection of a wave from the iris. The images were separated into seven key areas of interest (AOIs) in which participants focussed their gaze: under the right eye, right eye, under the left eye, left eye, nose, mouth and other parts of the screen.

The researchers wanted to know more than how much time the participants spent looking at each AOI, but also how they moved their eyes and scan the faces. The researchers used four different concepts from network analysis to evaluate the varying degree of importance the children placed on the seven AOIs when exploring the facial features.

The first concept determined the number of other AOIs that the participant directly moves their eyes to and from a particular AOI. The second concept looked at how often a particular AOI is involved when the participant moves their eyes between two other AOIs as quickly as possible.

The third concept is related to how quickly one can move their eyes from …read more

Source:: Daily Times

      

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Novel technique to accurately detect autism in kids

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