People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show atypical attention to social stimuli and aberrant gaze when viewing images of the physical world. However, it is unknown how they perceive the world from a first-person perspective. In this study, we used machine learning to classify photos taken in three different categories (people, indoors, and outdoors) as either having been taken by individuals with ASD or by peers without ASD. Our classifier effectively discriminated photos from all three categories, but was particularly successful at classifying photos of people with >80% accuracy. Importantly, visualization of our model revealed critical features that led to successful discrimination and showed that our model adopted a strategy similar to that of ASD experts. Furthermore, for the first time we showed that photos taken by individuals with ASD contained less salient objects, especially in the central visual field. Notably, our model outperformed classification of these photos by ASD experts. Together, we demonstrate an effective and novel method that is capable of discerning photos taken by individuals with ASD and revealing aberrant visual attention in ASD from a unique first-person perspective. Our method may in turn provide an objective measure for evaluations of individuals with ASD. LAY SUMMARY: People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate atypical visual attention to social stimuli. However, it remains largely unclear how they perceive the world from a first-person perspective. In this study, we employed a deep learning approach to analyze a unique dataset of photos taken by people with and without ASD. Our computer modeling was not only able to discern which photos were taken by individuals with ASD, outperforming ASD experts, but importantly, it revealed critical features that led to successful discrimination, revealing aspects of atypical visual attention in ASD from their first-person perspective.
© 2020 International Society for Autism Research and Wiley Periodicals LLC.

References

PubMed