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Non-invasive Eye Tracking Methods for New World and Old World Monkeys.

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Eye-tracking methods measure what humans and other animals visually attend to in the environment. In nonhuman primates, eye tracking can be used to test hypotheses about how primates process social information. This information can further our understanding of primate behavior as well as offer unique translational potential to explore causes of or treatments for altered social processing as seen in people with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. However, previous methods for collecting eye-tracking data in nonhuman primates required some form of head restraint, which limits the opportunities for research with respect to the number of or kinds of primates that can undergo an eye-tracking study. We developed a novel, noninvasive method for collecting eye tracking data that can be used both in animals that are difficult to restrain without sedation as well as animals that are of different ages and sizes as the box size can be adjusted. Using a transport box modified with a viewing window, we collected eye-tracking data in both New (Callicebus cupreus) and Old World monkeys (Macaca mulatta) across multiple developmental time points. These monkeys had the option to move around the box and avert their eyes from the screen, yet, they demonstrated a natural interest in viewing species-specific imagery with no previous habituation to the eye-tracking paradigm. Provided with opportunistic data from voluntary viewing of stimuli, we found that juveniles viewed stimuli more than other age groups, videos were viewed more than static photo imagery, and that monkeys increased their viewing time when presented with multiple eye tracking sessions. This noninvasive approach opens new opportunities to integrate eye-tracking studies into nonhuman primate research.

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