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Social attention: a possible early indicator of efficacy in autism clinical trials

Geraldine Dawson123*, Raphael Bernier34 and Robert H Ring15

Author Affiliations

1 Autism Speaks, New York, NY, USA

2 Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3366, USA

3 Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

5 Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Drexel University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA

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Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders 2012, 4:11  doi:10.1186/1866-1955-4-11

Published: 17 May 2012


For decades, researchers have sought to clarify the nature of the social communication impairments in autism, highlighting impaired or atypical 'social attention' as a key measurable construct that helps to define the core impairment of social communication. In this paper, we provide an overview of research on social attention impairments in autism and their relation to deficiencies in neural circuitry related to social reward. We offer a framework for considering social attention as a potential moderator or mediator of response to early behavioral intervention, and as an early indicator of efficacy of behavioral and/or pharmacological treatments aimed at addressing the social impairments in autism.

Autism; Autism spectrum disorder; Social reward; Social attention; Oxytocin; Clinical trials; Behavioral intervention