Neural Basis of Social Gaze-following Deficits Explored in an Animal Model
One of the most striking diagnostic features of autism is the failure use social cues to guide attention. The primate is a unique animal model of use to autism researchers since this animal will shift its attention to others based on gaze cues. This model of joint attention allows researchers a unique opportunity to investigate the neurobiological substrate of this behavior. The Platt lab has shown that the gaze-following behavior includes both reflex as well as cognitive processing. In this project, Dr. Platt and Steven Shepherd, a pre-doctoral fellow who bring expertise in electrophysiology, will study the impact of different stimuli on the social gaze. In addition, they will attempt to determine whether social gaze is influenced more by reflex or voluntary mechanisms. The activity of a particular group of neurons in a brain region called the lateral intraparietal area will be measured to examine their role in social gaze and attention to social cues.