ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (7): 1205-1215.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2015.01205

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The Neural Basis of Joint Attention and Early Intervention in Children with Autism

CHEN Lu; ZHANG Ting; LI Quan; FENG Tingyong   

  1. (Research center of Psychology and Social Development, Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China)
  • Received:2014-12-11 Online:2015-07-15 Published:2015-07-15
  • Contact: FENG Tingyong, E-mail:


Autism spectrum disorders are viewed as a pervasive developmental disorder with complex neural basis, displayed marked deficits in joint attention in early infancy. Joint attention (JA) is a skill in which two people share attention with respect to interesting objects or events, and it is crucial for social cognitive development. Firstly, we compared the developmental characteristics of joint attention in autistic and typical developing children from the perspective of social cognitive development. The differences are mainly embodied in behavioral deficits, such as gaze shifting, showing and sharing. Based on the parallel and distributed information processing model of JA, we focused on the neural basis of two types of joint attention in autism: responding to joint attention (RJA) involves the posterior cortical attention network (parietal and temporal cortex mostly, e.g. pSTS and IPS); Initiating joint attention (IJA) involves the anterior cortical attention network (frontal cortex mostly, e.g. cingulate cortex and MPFC). In addition, we summarized two basic approaches: discrete trail teaching (DTT) and pivotal response training (PRT), and discussed the advanced model and effectiveness evaluation of joint attention intervention. Future studies should focus on the development, brain networks and functional connections of joint attention in children with autism, as well as providing useful early interventions.

Key words: autism, joint attention, attention network, neural mechanism, intervention