Talk by Dr. Zsuzsa Kaldy on “Visual attentional mechanisms in 2-year-olds diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder”


Speaker: Dr. Zsuzsa Kaldy

Title:  Visual attentional mechanisms in 2-year-olds diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Date: Friday, 23 September, 1-2 pm 

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room) 


Individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been characterized as having intense attentional engagement (‘sticky attention’). A central question has been at what level this engagement operates. We hypothesized that it has less to do with selection  of visual objects per se, but instead reflects greater attentional engagement on a higher level: to particular tasks. I will present a series of eye-tracking studies supporting this hypothesis using two paradigms (visual search and the gap-overlap task). We tested 2-year-old toddlers with and without ASD – the earliest age at which ASD can be reliably diagnosed. Our goal is to find out when the developmental trajectory of attentional mechanisms starts to diverge in children with ASD, as this process likely plays a key role in the emergence of restricted interests, a core symptom of the condition.

About the Speaker:

 Dr. Zsuzsa Kaldy received her M.A. in Psychology from Eotvos Lorand University, in Budapest, Hungary, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ. She has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston in Boston, MA since 2003, where she is currently Associate Professor. Her main research focus is on the early development of visual attention and working memory in infants and toddlers. She has developed several innovative experimental paradigms to study these processes, using high-frequency eye-tracking and pupillometry. Recently, in collaboration with Alice Carter (UMass Boston) and Nancy Kanwisher (MIT), she has been investigating the unusual profile of visual attentional skills in 2-year-olds diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Kaldy’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Simons Center for the Social Brain, and the UMass President’s Office. 

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