[PS-3.5]Dysfunctions in infants' statistical learning are related to subthreshold autistic social impairments in their parents

Bettoni, R. 1 , Riva, V. . 3 , Cantiani, C. 3 , Riboldi, E. 3 , Molteni, M. 3 , Macchi Cassia, V. 1, 2 & Bulf, H. 1, 2

1 University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
2 Center of Neurosciences (Neuro-MI), Milan, Italy
3 Scientific Institute E.Medea, Bosisio Parini, Italy

It has been shown that statistical learning (SL) is impaired in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The most frequent approach in the investigation of early markers for ASD is the study of infant siblings of children with autism, as siblings are part of the broader autism phenotype in which ASD represents the upper extreme of a constellation of traits continuously distributed in the general population. Here, we adopted a different approach by investigating infant offspring of (non-diagnosed) adults who show high or low autistic traits. Specifically, we investigated the relationship between infants? SL abilities and their parental autistic traits. Using an habituation procedure, we tested 6-month-olds? (n=21) ability to discriminate between statistically structured vs. random visual sequences. Autistic traits in the infants? parents were measured with the AQ questionnaire (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001). Results demonstrated that infants whose parents showed low autistic traits (>-1 SD, n=18) disabituated at the random sequences after being habituated at the structured one, while those whose parents showed high autistic traits (?-1 SD, n=11) did not discriminate between the two sequences at test. These findings suggest that infants? dysfunctions in visual SL mechanism may be related to subthreshold autistic social impairments in their parents.