Some key behavioural traits of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have been hypothesized to be due to impairments in the early activation of subcortical orienting mechanisms, which in typical development bias newborns to orient to relevant social visual stimuli. A challenge to testing this hypothesis is that autism is usually not diagnosed until a child is at least 3 years old. Here, we circumvented this difficulty by studying for the very first time, the predispositions to pay attention to social stimuli in newborns with a high familial risk of autism. Results showed that visual preferences to social stimuli strikingly differed between high-risk and low-risk newborns. Significant predictors for high-risk newborns were obtained and an accurate biomarker was identified. The results revealed early behavioural characteristics of newborns with familial risk for ASD, allowing for a prospective approach to the emergence of autism in early infancy.
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