Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes

Symposium

Gaze-Contingent Video Games to Train Attention and Eye Movements in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, November 17
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom E & F, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Attention | Autism Spectrum Disorders | Neurocognitive Therapies
Presentation Type: Symposium

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong disorder that severely affects the ability to learn and function in a social environment.  In typical function, higher level social, language and communication skills develop over the first few years of life and depend upon the critical building blocks of sensory-motor and attention abilities.  Similarly in autism, higher level problems with social communication develop over the first two post-natal years and are preceded by signs of abnormal visual attention and motor skills. Therapies to improve social interaction and communication are the most common of behavioral interventions in ASD.  These treatments may improve the specific behaviors that are targets of the training, but rarely do they generalize to broader function or other clinical symptoms. We propose that interventions aimed instead at the early deficits that support social and language skills would be more broadly effective. Because disruption of attention is one of the earliest and most persistent symptoms in autism, and because attention is highly subject to improvement with training, it is an important target for intervention.
The brain circuitry that guides the redirection of spatial attention is shared with the circuitry used to shift gaze.  This suggests that gaze-contingent training could be a effective way to improve attention-orienting skill.  We developed PC-based gaze-contingent video games using an EyeTribe eye tracker. The games were designed around principles to train fast and accurate attention orienting behavior as well as stable fixation.   In addition, the games were designed to be sufficiently engaging and robust for long-term at-home use.  This low-cost, gaze-contingent game system proved to be robust for home use and in a small clinical trial, significantly improved the attention orienting and eye movement performance of ASD adolescents in 8 weeks of training. The next steps involve assessing the importance of gaze-contingency and what, if any, aspects of training transfer to more real-world tasks including social behavior.

Leanne Chukoskie

Assistant Research Scientist
University of California, San Diego

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