Complexity analysis of head movements in autistic toddlers.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Early differences in sensorimotor functioning have been documented in young autistic children and infants who are later diagnosed with autism. Previous research has demonstrated that autistic toddlers exhibit more frequent head movement when viewing dynamic audiovisual stimuli, compared to neurotypical toddlers. To further explore this behavioral characteristic, in this study, computer vision (CV) analysis was used to measure several aspects of head movement dynamics of autistic and neurotypical toddlers while they watched a set of brief movies with social and nonsocial content presented on a tablet. METHODS: Data were collected from 457 toddlers, 17-36 months old, during their well-child visit to four pediatric primary care clinics. Forty-one toddlers were subsequently diagnosed with autism. An application (app) displayed several brief movies on a tablet, and the toddlers watched these movies while sitting on their caregiver's lap. The front-facing camera in the tablet recorded the toddlers' behavioral responses. CV was used to measure the participants' head movement rate, movement acceleration, and complexity using multiscale entropy. RESULTS: Autistic toddlers exhibited significantly higher rate, acceleration, and complexity in their head movements while watching the movies compared to neurotypical toddlers, regardless of the type of movie content (social vs. nonsocial). The combined features of head movement acceleration and complexity reliably distinguished the autistic and neurotypical toddlers. CONCLUSIONS: Autistic toddlers exhibit differences in their head movement dynamics when viewing audiovisual stimuli. Higher complexity of their head movements suggests that their movements were less predictable and less stable compared to neurotypical toddlers. CV offers a scalable means of detecting subtle differences in head movement dynamics, which may be helpful in identifying early behaviors associated with autism and providing insight into the nature of sensorimotor differences associated with autism.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Krishnappa Babu, PR; Di Martino, JM; Chang, Z; Perochon, S; Aiello, R; Carpenter, KLH; Compton, S; Davis, N; Franz, L; Espinosa, S; Flowers, J; Dawson, G; Sapiro, G

Published Date

  • January 2023

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 64 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 156 - 166

PubMed ID

  • 35965431

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9771883

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1469-7610

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/jcpp.13681


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England