Eye-tracking tool to screen FASD and ADHD in children

Tuesday, 07 August, 2018

Eye-tracking tool to screen FASD and ADHD in children

Telethon Kids Institute is trialling a new tool for earlier and easier screening of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, using eye-tracking technology developed by the Kids Brain Health Network in Canada.

The eye-tracking equipment records where a child is looking on a computer screen to measure their speed, accuracy, inhibition and short-term memory while watching short video clips or performing game-like computer tasks.

It is believed that children with FASD and ADHD have differing strengths and weaknesses when performing these tasks, as well as differing preferences for features in the videos. It is these differences that are being detected to help screen for problems with a child’s brain development.

“The screening tool uses machine learning, which is an advanced set of statistical tools which learn to find to patterns in large samples of data,” said Dr Martyn Symons, an FASD researcher at the Telethon Kids Institute.

“By comparing the common scores of a typically developing brain against those of a brain with FASD or ADHD, the software is able to ‘teach itself’ to be able to identify whether a kid is typically developing, or not.

“Machine learning can also be used to find what most attracts the child’s attention when watching the short video clips — such as movement, colours, edges or brightness.”

Similar studies have been carried out in Canada, where researchers were able to use this technology to distinguish between kids who had FASD or ADHD, and kids who were typically developing, with approximately 80% accuracy.

Dr Symons said it is hoped the new tool will aid with faster, cheaper and easier to administer screening to identify children who should get a more in-depth check.

“The eye-tracking test looks for objective biological markers and could be automated, which means that it could easily become a part of routine practice when health nurses are conducting assessments in schools — reducing costs and wait times for testing and making it more likely that kids are diagnosed earlier,” he said.

“An earlier diagnosis can lead to earlier access to therapy, which is believed to result in better long-term outcomes.”

The study is currently looking for typically developing children aged 7–12 years old to build a bank of results that will aid in the software’s ability to compare and diagnose. To learn more about participation, visit the Telethon Kids Institute website.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Monkey Business Images

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