Project area or title
Understanding and Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Condition in Children Using Optically-Pumped Magnetometer and Deep-Learning-Based Gaze Analysis
The project aims to study Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), a widespread neurodevelopmental condition, in a paediatric population. While a complete understanding of ASC remains elusive, early childhood diagnosis and support can significantly improve the quality of life by supporting young people and their families. Existing ASC clinical assessment methods rely on detailed clinical interviews, and often there are long waiting lists to see trained clinicians. Neuroscience research has sought to improve such clinical assessments and has used conventional neuroimaging and gaze analysis, but these are often insufficient and ill-suited for children; fMRI struggles to capture intricate temporal brain dynamics, and MEG is challenging for children due to their smaller head sizes. Regarding gaze analysis, while existing diagnostics primarily focus on simplistic visual scenarios, the complex nature of gaze patterns and attentional mechanisms complicates the diagnosis of ASC using gaze patterns, lacking established computational models.
This interdisciplinary project pioneers a novel approach by combining two recent breakthroughs in neuroimaging and computer vision. It leverages Optically Pumped Magnetometers (OPM, led by An) and deep learning-based gaze pattern analysis (led by Yeo). OPM neuroimaging of children, coupled with behavioural eye-tracking experiments, will examine the effects of ASC on various scenarios of oculomotor/attentional control, including both basic eye movements and complex gaze coordination patterns in dynamic scene comprehension through deep learning-based analysis. The project comprises several key elements:
- OPM neuroimaging of children
- Standard oculomotor control assessment, including saccades, anti-saccades, and smooth pursuits
- Deep-learning-based complex gaze pattern analysis
The research promises insights into ASC and novel assessment methods for children, facilitating early diagnosis and support. The PhD student involved in the project will work in CHBH, actively contributing to OPM neuroimaging, eye-tracking, and gaze analysis under close supervision.
Children, Young People & Perinatal Mental Health
University of Birmingham