Early development of attention networks and their association with social visual attention in infant rhesus macaques: translational potential for autism spectrum disorders Open Access

Poole, Cami (Spring 2021)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/9g54xj75c?locale=en


Non-human primates (NHP) are critical translational models for understanding developmental mechanisms of typical and atypical social attention of relevance to neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The goal of this study was to examine early developmental trajectories of visual attention brain networks that support the maturation of attention to social visual stimuli in infant rhesus macaques.

Longitudinal brain structural MRI scans were acquired at 2, 4, 8, 12, and 24 weeks of age from 31 infant male macaques living with their mothers in social groups and a subset of 21 subjects were also scanned at 16, 20wks. T1- and T2-weighted images were acquired using a 3T scanner to examine volumetric changes in social visual attention networks, which include the primary visual cortex (V1) and extrastriate visual cortex (V3); lateral intraparietal area (LIP) and frontal eye field (FEF) in the dorsal attention network (DAN); temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) in the ventral attention network (VAN); and caudal temporal parietooccipital area (TPOc) and area PG associated region in the superior temporal sulcus (STS). Measures of social development were collected from a smaller subset of subjects (n = 11), using: (1) focal observations and a rhesus ethogram, (2) rating scales of typical and atypical social behaviors (adapted from the Social Responsiveness Scale -SRS- used for ASD diagnosis in humans), (3) visual orientation, following, and attention using a tool adapted from the Infant Neurobehavioral Assessment Scale (INAS), and (4) visual attention to social vs. nonsocial stimuli using eye-tracking methods.

Region-specific developmental changes were identified in these social visual attention brain networks, although rapid growth was shown by most regions between 2 to 8-12 weeks. These changes were paralleled by an increase in social and solitary play, decline in proximity and contact behaviors with the mother by 8 weeks, when infants increase independence-seeking behaviors.

Our findings suggest that during the first 24 weeks of life (equivalent to 2 years in humans), particularly in the first 8-12 postnatal weeks, social visual attention networks undergo robust structural changes that parallel infant maturation to independence and increased attention to salient social visual stimuli and, by extension, social interaction. Understanding typical development of attention relevant to social visual stimuli and the underlying social brain networks in an NHP model can help elucidate the roots of brain-behavior pathogenesis of human social deficits. 

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Methods. 12

Subjects. 12

Structural MRI. 13

Data Acquisition. 13

Data Processing and Analysis. 14

Development of Social Visual Behavior. 17

Infant Social Visual Behaviors. 18

Juvenile Macaque Social Responsiveness Scale (jmSRS). 20

Schneider Neonatal Assessment for Primates (SNAP). 21

Eye-Tracking. 21

Statistical Analysis. 23

sMRI. 23

Infant Social Behavioral Observations. 24

jmSRS. 24

SNAP. 25

Eye-Tracking. 25

Results. 26

sMRI Results. 26

Behavioral Results. 30

Infant Social Behavioral Observations Results. 31

jmSRS Results. 32

SNAP Results. 32

Eye-Tracking Results. 32

Discussion. 33

Figures. 62

Tables. 78

References. 81

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