The etiology of pediatric brain tumor survivor (PBTSs) social difficulties is not well understood. A model of social competence for youth with brain disorder and evidence from youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suggests that diminished social attention may underlie social deficits in PBTSs. This study used eye tracking technology to compare visual social attention in PBTSs, youth with ASD, and typically developing (TD) youth.
Participants included 90 age-, gender-, and IQ-matched youth ( = 30 per group). PBTSs were at least 5 years from diagnosis and 2 years from the completion of tumor-directed therapy. Participants’ eye gaze patterns were recorded while watching an established social play paradigm that presented videos of children engaging in either interactive or parallel play. Group differences in proportional gaze duration toward social versus nonsocial areas of interest were compared. Medical correlates of social attention in PBTSs were evaluated.
Groups significantly differed in gaze preference across conditions, with PBTSs looking less at social areas of interest than TD youth and in a manner comparable to youth with ASD. Among PBTSs, multimodal tumor-directed therapy was associated with reduced gaze preference for faces.
This study provides the first evidence of disrupted social attention in PBTSs, with parallels to the social attention deficits observed in ASD. Findings offer a new way to conceptualize the social difficulties of PBTSs and could guide interventions aimed at improving PBTS social adjustment by increasing visual attention to socially relevant information during social interactions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).