Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published December 1, 2006 | Published
Journal Article Open

Looking you in the mouth: abnormal gaze in autism resulting from impaired top-down modulation of visual attention


People with autism are impaired in their social behavior, including their eye contact with others, but the processes that underlie this impairment remain elusive. We combined high-resolution eye tracking with computational modeling in a group of 10 high-functioning individuals with autism to address this issue. The group fixated the location of the mouth in facial expressions more than did matched controls, even when the mouth was not shown, even in faces that were inverted and most noticeably at latencies of 200–400 ms. Comparisons with a computational model of visual saliency argue that the abnormal bias for fixating the mouth in autism is not driven by an exaggerated sensitivity to the bottom-up saliency of the features, but rather by an abnormal top-down strategy for allocating visual attention.

Additional Information

© 2006 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press. Received 29 July 2006; Accepted 16 September 2006. This research was supported by grants from the NIMH, the Cure Autism Now Foundation, and Autism Speaks. The authors would like to thank the participants and their families for making this study possible, Dr Frédéric Gosselin for helpful advice on the using the 'Bubbles' method, and Robert Hurley for support in conducting the experiment. Conflict of Interest: None declared.

Attached Files

Published - nsl030.pdf


Files (654.5 kB)
Name Size Download all
654.5 kB Preview Download

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 24, 2023