Study uses eye tracking to assess receptive language in children

May 05, 2018

TORONTO, May 5, 2018 - A new study found that eye tracking (ET) can be explored as a modality for assessing receptive language (RL) in typically developing (TD) children and those with neurodevelopmental delay (NDD). The research findings will be presented during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2018 Meeting in Toronto.

NDD assessment in children with significant motor delays (e.g., cerebral palsy), which is often associated with apraxia, is difficult. ET is a noninvasive tool that records where someone is looking and how they move their gaze, from which researchers can make inferences about cognition. However, there is limited data on its potential use in children with NDD.

In conducting the study, a Tobii Pro X3-120 eye tracker was used with Tobii studio software to present stimuli and collect data on recruited patients, aged 18 months to six years. Participants first completed calibration to measure participant-specific gaze data. Participants were then presented with a stimulus of a target image alongside a distracter, accompanied by audio instructions to direct their gaze at the target. Stimuli were derived from standardized developmental assessments. Word comprehension was measured as accuracy and fixation proportion.

The study found that ET is feasible in young TD pediatric patients and those with marked ELDs. Word comprehension as measured by accuracy significantly increases as a function for normal development. Accuracy in children with expressive language delay (ELD) is significantly lower compared to TD children of the same age, suggesting a more diffuse cognitive impairment.

"The goal of the study was to evaluate eye tracking as a tool for measuring receptive language ability in pediatric patients," said Dr. Mary Vernov, one of the authors of the study. "Findings show that eye tracking can be explored as a modality for assessing receptive language in children. This has important implications for evaluating children with developmental delays and may be used as an alternative form of communication in those with expressive language delays."

Dr. Vernov will present the abstract, "Using Eye Tracking (ET) as a Tool to Assess Receptive Language (RL) in Typically Developing (TD) Children and Children at High Risk for Neurodevelopmental Delay (NDD)," on Monday, May 7 at 5:45 p.m. EDT. Reporters interested in an interview with Dr. Vernov should contact PAS2018@piercom.com.

Please note: Only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have additional data to share with media.

The PAS 2018 Meeting, taking place in Toronto on May 5-8, 2018, brings together thousands of pediatric scientists and other health care providers to improve the health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information about the PAS 2018 Meeting, please visit http://www.pas-meeting.org.
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About The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting

The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of pediatricians and other health care providers united by a common mission: improve the health and well-being of children worldwide. This international gathering includes researchers, academics, as well as clinical care providers and community practitioners. Presentations cover issues of interest to generalists as well as topics critical to a wide array of specialty and sub-specialty areas. The PAS Meeting is produced through a partnership of four pediatric organizations that are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy: American Pediatric Society, Society for Pediatric Research, Academic Pediatric Association and American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, please visit http://www.pas-meeting.org. Follow us on Twitter @PASMeeting and #PAS2018, or like us on Facebook.

PAS Media Contact:

(214) 217-7300
PAS2018@piercom.com

PAS Press Office (May 5-8, 2018):
(832) 371-6239

Abstract: Using Eye Tracking (ET) as a Tool to Assess Receptive Language (RL) in Typically Developing (TD) Children and Children at High Risk for Neurodevelopmental Delay (NDD).

Background: Neurodevelopmental assessment in children with significant motor delays (e.g. cerebral palsy), which is often associated with apraxia, is difficult. ET is a non-invasive tool that records where someone one is looking and how they move their gaze, from which we can make inferences about cognition. There is limited data on its potential use in children with NDD.

Objective: To assess feasibility of using ET as a tool for evaluating RL in children with profound expressive language delays (ELD), in term infants post perinatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and ex premature infants, as compared to TD children.

Design/Methods: Prospective study recruiting patients 18m-6yo in a general pediatrics clinic and ex neonates at high risk for NDD. A Tobii Pro X3-120 eye tracker is used with Tobii Studio software to present stimuli and collect data. Participants first complete calibration to measure participant-specific gaze data. They are then presented with a stimulus of the target image alongside a distracter, which is accompanied by audio instructions to direct their gaze at the target. Stimuli are derived from standardized developmental assessments. Word comprehension is measured as accuracy and fixation proportion. Accuracy is the proportion of time looking at target, divided by the total time looking at both target and distracter. Fixation proportion is the difference between time spent fixating on an image when it is the target, minus fixation when it is the distracter. Positive scores are consistent with word understanding.

Results: 13 children have undergone testing. In TD children 18-24m (n=5), accuracy was 59±10% vs 71±9.0% in TD children 3-4y (n=4)(p=0.05). In children with ELD, age 3-6y (n=4), accuracy was 58±7%, less than in TD children of the same age, 71±9.0% (p=0.03). Word comprehension, as measured by fixation proportion was 54±29% in TD 18-24mo (n=2) and 85±20% in TD 3-4yo (n=4) (p=0.09). In children with ELD, word comprehension was 58±12% (n= 2), similar to age matched TD children (p=0.08).

Conclusion(s): ET is feasible in young TD pediatric patients and those with marked ELD. Word comprehension as measured by accuracy significantly increases as a function of normal development. Accuracy in children with ELD is significantly decreased compared to TD children of the same age, suggesting a more diffuse cognitive impairment. Based on these preliminary findings, ET can be explored as a modality for assessing RL in TD children and those with NDD.

Authors: Mary Vernov, Gail Ross, Jeffrey Perlman

Pediatric Academic Societies

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