Trialing eye-tracking technology in ASD diagnosis

Dr Kristelle Hudry and her research team are working with Japanese corporation, JVCKENWOOD Corporation, to evaluate eye-tracking technology in supporting ASD diagnosis, writes Rebecca Connell.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) covers a wide range of neurological conditions, affecting an estimated 1-2% of the global population. Early diagnosis of ASD is critical for achieving the best prognosis and treatment. However, it can be a lengthy and subjective process.

Gazefinder, by JVCKENDWOOD Corporation, is technology which uses eye-tracking in order to diagnose ASD.

“Gazefinder is a simple technology designed to make the diagnostic process faster and give professionals more confidence in their diagnosis,” says Dr Kristelle Hudry, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University.

Dr Hudry and her team are leading the Australian clinical trials of Gazefinder. The trials, conducted at La Trobe University in Melbourne and the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, aims to test Gazefinder’s accuracy of diagnosing ASD in young children across the spectrum.

“What we are trying to pull apart is where children allocate their attention,” says Lacey Chetcuti, Research Officer and PhD candidate at La Trobe University. “Gazefinder does this by using an infrared sensor built into its screen which can then record the coordinates of where exactly a child is looking.”

“ASD is thought to be underpinned by brain differences in social motivation and attention control, and these are what Gazefinder aims to identify in children,” says Dr Hudry. “The information that the eye tracker records can tell us about what captures children’s interest. If Gazefinder can identify that autistic children are systematically more interested in different things than non-autistic children it can help professionals be more confident in diagnosing ASD.”

“Compared to other assessments we do, it’s very quick and places very few demands on children,” says Alex Aulich, Senior Project Coordinator with the team. “It’s a three-minute video. There are no instructions, just whatever comes naturally for the child to look at.”

Gazefinder was successfully trialed in Japan in 2011, and now JVCKENWOOD Corporation has decided to fund these trials in Australia.

The Australian trial involves around 200 children, aged between two and four, with a ratio of 1:1 of children with and without ASD. If the trial indicates the technology is accurate in identifying the children with ASD, JVCKENWOOD Corporation will seek certification from the Therapeutic Goods Association for use as a medical device in Australia.

Trials will continue until early 2021.

Researchers are looking for young children, aged 2 to 4, with or without ASD, to be involved in their study. For more information, or to register your interest, please follow this link.