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Relatives of autistic people tend to display abnormal eye movements

Posted on: August 3, 2010

Abnormal eye movements and other sensorimotor and neurobehavioral impairments appear common in unaffected family members of individuals with autism, finds a new study.

Matthew W. Mosconi, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted eye movement testing and other assessments of neurobehavioral function in 57 first-degree relatives of individuals with autism.

Their results were compared with those of 40 individuals who were the same age, sex and had the same IQ but did not have a family member with the condition.

When compared with controls, family members of individuals with autism tended to perform more slowly and less accurately on eye movement tasks, including those assessing saccades and smooth-pursuit eye movements.

“The present findings document that first-degree relatives of individuals with autism demonstrate a unique pattern of oculomotor impairments similar to that previously reported in independent samples of individuals with autism, suggesting that these alterations within sensorimotor and cognitive brain circuitry may be familial traits,” the authors said.

The report has been published in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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