Breaking News
February 24, 2018 - Izon announce the launch of the qEV2 and qEV10 Exosome Isolation columns
February 24, 2018 - New CSIRO technology can create clean drinking water
February 24, 2018 - Treating sleep-disordered breathing may improve prognosis of heart failure patients
February 24, 2018 - Early life exposure to green space could have beneficial effects on cognitive function
February 24, 2018 - Joint Surgery: Aspirin Equals NOAC for Post-Acute VTE Prevention
February 23, 2018 - Scientists identify new marker of arthritis in mice
February 23, 2018 - Beetroot juice supplements may benefit patients with heart failure
February 23, 2018 - New study identifies novel molecular biomarkers of preeclampsia
February 23, 2018 - Researchers discover new link between gut bacteria and obesity
February 23, 2018 - Aimmune Therapeutics’ Pivotal Phase 3 PALISADE Trial of AR101 Meets Primary Endpoint in Patients With Peanut Allergy
February 23, 2018 - Improving Glaucoma Care: Ophthalmology Times
February 23, 2018 - Preventing dementia: The promising, the disappointing and the inconclusive
February 23, 2018 - Duke researchers show how to retrain immune system of peanut-allergy mice
February 23, 2018 - Older males could live longer with light intensity exercise, study suggests
February 23, 2018 - C-sections and gut bacteria linked to childhood obesity risk
February 23, 2018 - Asthmatics have lower degree of DNA methylation in certain immune cells
February 23, 2018 - Uniforms coated with copper nanoparticles could reduce spread of hospital infections
February 23, 2018 - What Not to Do If You Have Asthma and Want to Get Pregnant
February 23, 2018 - Deep brain stimulation may be promising Alzheimer’s treatment
February 23, 2018 - AMSBIO offers new PARPtrap Assay Kit
February 23, 2018 - New study identifies mechanisms to lengthen egg viability in worms
February 23, 2018 - Interventions to improve self-concept could be critical in treating mental health patients
February 23, 2018 - Few minutes of physical activity may lower risk of death in older men, research suggests
February 23, 2018 - Modifications in HIV test enable rapid detection of Zika virus, study states
February 23, 2018 - Could Hackers Target Heart Devices?
February 23, 2018 - Kids’ Mental Health Status Not a Factor in Gun Storage
February 23, 2018 - Revellers ready for festival drug checks, study finds
February 23, 2018 - Stanford researchers explore how enzyme changes and becomes antibiotic-resistant
February 23, 2018 - Scientists decode molecular structure of healthy huntingtin protein
February 23, 2018 - Efficacy of cancer immunotherapy increased by deactivating tumor defence mechanism
February 23, 2018 - Epigenetic changes due to normal aging process linked to cancer risk
February 23, 2018 - Evaluations of Medicaid experiments by states, CMS are weak, GAO says
February 23, 2018 - Biomarkers ID’d for Anesthesia-Related Neural Damage
February 23, 2018 - Study reveals how kidney disease happens
February 23, 2018 - Iron deficiency early in life can have long-lasting consequences for the brain
February 23, 2018 - High protein diet reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease, research finds
February 23, 2018 - Research extends powerful capabilities of MRI to nanometer scale
February 23, 2018 - Scientists show that cutting-edge technique can efficiently sort nano-sized particles
February 23, 2018 - Dornier’s new laser innovation delivers confidence to glide through deflected scopes
February 23, 2018 - Neurocrine Biosciences Will File New Drug Application for Opicapone for Parkinson’s Disease Based on Existing Pivotal Clinical Trial Data
February 23, 2018 - Bariatric Surgery Enabled Stopping Diabetes Meds
February 23, 2018 - C-sections and gut bacteria increase risk of childhood obesity
February 23, 2018 - Busting myths about diet and kidney stones
February 23, 2018 - Reformulating vaccines to prevent relapse
February 23, 2018 - Prophylactic use of haloperidol does not reduce delirium burden
February 23, 2018 - Higher prevalence of kidney stones in Southern United States
February 23, 2018 - Lithotripsy has revolutionized modern kidney stone management
February 23, 2018 - Researchers describe important step toward gene therapy for patients with Sandhoff disease
February 23, 2018 - Pain Therapeutics Resubmits New Drug Application for Remoxy ER, an Abuse-Deterrent, Extended-Release Drug Candidate for the Treatment of Chronic Pain
February 23, 2018 - Combo Therapy Highly Active in Untreated RCC
February 23, 2018 - Boosting a key protein to help bones that won’t heal
February 23, 2018 - Advanced method holds promise for substantial improvements in breast cancer diagnosis
February 23, 2018 - MRI and machine learning could predict whether OCD patients will benefit from treatment
February 23, 2018 - Comparing low-fat and low-carb diets finds little difference
February 23, 2018 - FDA Alert: Clarithromycin (Biaxin): Drug Safety Communication
February 23, 2018 - Out of Limbo Into Bomb Scare
February 23, 2018 - Patients who achieve short-term weight loss before bariatric surgery have better outcomes
February 23, 2018 - Beetroot may reduce kidney failure risk after heart x-ray, research reveals
February 23, 2018 - Sleep disruptions in menopause correlated with hot flashes and depression
February 23, 2018 - Scientists discover new treatment approach to curb severe myocarditis
February 23, 2018 - ‘Click chemistry’ approach may improve disease-fighting properties of drugs
February 23, 2018 - NIGHTSEA and EMS team up to offer KEY Award in fluorescence stereo microscopy
February 23, 2018 - Calorie restriction improves intestinal-tissue regeneration after injury
February 23, 2018 - Tobacco Kills, No Matter How It’s Smoked: Study
February 23, 2018 - Q&A: Avindra Nath, MD | Medpage Today
February 23, 2018 - Adherence to sleep apnea treatment affects risk of hospital readmission
February 23, 2018 - Zika virus could be alternative for treatment of aggressive brain cancer
February 23, 2018 - Carbon monoxide enhances efficacy of antibiotic against stomach infection
February 23, 2018 - Study sheds light on biological mechanisms that drive rare pediatric neurogenetic disorders
February 23, 2018 - MSD and Ferring Pharmaceuticals Complete Largest Ever Clinical Trial in Postpartum Haemorrhage
February 23, 2018 - Portable ultrasound can help better detect fluid in the lungs of patients with end-stage kidney disease
February 23, 2018 - Postnova AF2000 system offers reliable characterization of trace metal colloid distribution in the environment
February 23, 2018 - Pioneering study may pave way for effective painkillers to treat neuropathic pain
February 23, 2018 - Research opens up new avenue to minimize risks of transplants
February 22, 2018 - Cabozantinib Active in Advanced Thyroid Cancer
February 22, 2018 - Polluted air may pollute our morality
February 22, 2018 - New data from VOYAGE 2 trial shows promising results for Janssen’s guselkumab treatment
February 22, 2018 - Bank loans signed in the hospital leave patients vulnerable
February 22, 2018 - Researchers identify new nanostructure inside sperm tails
February 22, 2018 - Catheter-based procedure increases treatment options for mitral valve disease
Eye tracking and robots—early interventions for children at risk for autism

Eye tracking and robots—early interventions for children at risk for autism

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Eye Tracking and Robots—Early Interventions for Children at Risk for Autism
Credit: Texas Tech University

Ask any new parent what they’re most excited about, and they’re likely to list getting to see their child achieve their first big milestones – their first step, their first word.

But before those big milestones are some that are even more important in determining if a child is developing normally, said Ann Mastergeorge, chair of the Texas Tech University Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) within the College of Human Sciences.

“When I talk to parents who are concerned, I’ll ask: Does your child point, does your child share things with you, do they reach out to show you something or give you something, and do they respond to their name?” she said. “If the answer is no, no, no to those things, of course it doesn’t mean they have autism, but they do have risk behaviors for autism.”

Now, thanks to some new technologies, Mastergeorge and her team are able to start helping children with those risk behaviors at a much younger age – as young as 12 months.

Eye tracking

The Research in Early Developmental Studies Laboratory, located inside the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, looks almost like a daycare classroom. It has brightly painted walls, toys in colorful plastic bins on shelves and even a high chair. But facing the high chair is something you wouldn’t find in a daycare – a large black screen with a tiny camera on top. It’s an eye tracker, and it’s the key to Mastergeorge’s new study, which provides earlier intervention for children at risk for autism.

When parents bring young children into the lab to be tested, the child is placed in the high chair to watch images on the screen. The child is shown video clips from “Sesame Street” and “Peter Pan,” as well as images of a woman and a robot. As the child watches, the eye tracker calibrates the pupil of the child’s eye and shows the researchers exactly what part of the screen the child is focused on.

And most importantly, the eye tracker also remembers the calibration for that specific child so it can show any changes in eye movement during future sessions.

“We’re looking at what children are looking at before intervention and after intervention to see how their gaze shifts change,” Mastergeorge explained.

Eye Tracking and Robots—Early Interventions for Children at Risk for Autism
Credit: Texas Tech University

Mastergeorge points to the screen, showing two characters in a room. She explains that a child with autism would likely focus on the background or unimportant details, while a child developing normally would focus on the characters’ faces.

“Children with autism don’t understand that’s where social communication happens,” she said. “What this allows us to do, both pre- and post-intervention, is to see whether or not they’re learning to look where the action is happening. This is just a very sophisticated method for us to be able to really know where kids are looking. So, we are using this technology in a very precise way to study that.”

After the first eye-tracking session, study participants go through a 16-week, home-based intervention project. Program coach Jessica Blume, an HDFS graduate student, emphasized that the goal is to teach children how to interact with others, not just how to act.

“It’s not about teaching behavior correction,” she said. “It’s about shaping communication out of those breakdowns.”

Parents are asked to play with the child, using special toys and focusing on turn-taking, for 15 minutes a day and videotape their interactions once a week. The videos are sent to their program coach, who can provide suggestions for the parents to try.

“We just hope that over time, the more opportunities they provide, the more interested the child will get in those activities,” Mastergeorge said. “Initially, the child’s just wandering back and forth. We tell the parent just to play with the toys. Eventually, maybe you’ll recruit them back, even if it’s just for one time. We want the parents to feel like it’s OK – to be videotaped while your child’s not performing is anxiety-provoking. We want them to know we expect the child to go to the window, to walk around, to throw the blocks. But we start to see really big shifts by about week 10.”

After 16 weeks of home intervention, the child is brought back to the laboratory for another eye-tracking session – and the results of a pilot study have shown improvement in children’s ability to focus on where the action is happening.

“It’s a win-win situation, for them and for us,” Mastergeorge said. “We know that if we can get some of these behaviors changed very early in the child’s development with this early intervention, then it’s going to have a very different trajectory than for a child who doesn’t have any intervention until much later.”

Eye Tracking and Robots—Early Interventions for Children at Risk for Autism
Credit: Texas Tech University

Robots

For children who are already past the infant and toddler stages, Mastergeorge’s team is trying a groundbreaking method – using robots for the intervention.

Using the eye tracker, these children are shown images of a woman and a robot repeating the same activities and giving the same instructions.

“Robots are less social, so some researchers have said maybe they’re less complex or less intimidating,” said Rebecca Beights, a graduate student in the College of Education who leads the team’s robot research. “It may be more motivating for the kids to look at objects than people. So we want to see, are they looking at the robot in an attentive way to potentially learn from it? If a kid with autism responds more to the robot, that could be a start to get them to follow simple instructions. And with the eye tracker, we can really determine that.”

A pilot study using robots in interventions with these older children also has shown positive results. Vijayanta “V.J.” Jain, a junior computer science major and research assistant on Mastergeorge’s team, programmed the robots to give verbal instructions and perform movements for the children to imitate.

“A robot was presented to a kid in their usual therapy time, and I measured their engagement: How engaged are they with the instructions? Are they touching the robot? Are they actively listening to it? Body orientation, stuff like that, and also if they followed the instruction or not,” Jain said. “I did that over several therapy sessions, six with each child.

“It was interesting to find that engagement kept increasing with each exposure. It was not a completely linear, steady increase, but overall we found that between the initial and the final exposures there was an increase in engagement. We cannot really generalize, but it suggests that robots are not just a novel stimuli; they can be a salient instructional stimuli. These could be an effective tool in therapy sessions.”

Mastergeorge said the study is groundbreaking in her field.

“This is one of the first studies to look at both robots and eye tracking with children with autism,” she said. “We’re on the cutting edge.”

Similar to the efforts for younger children, the emphasis of the robot study is again the importance of early intervention.

“With early intervention, we can see such dramatic and wonderful change and improvement,” Beights said. “If we’re able to get a child into early intervention and have it matched to what they need, both developmentally and to their attentional styles – that’s the idea of the robot versus human – matching the intervention to the kid and the family, it can be very effective. Both of those projects are looking at how to do that best.”


Explore further:
Humanoid robot “Russell” engages children with autism

More information:
Anyone interested in being involved in Mastergeorge’s study may contact her at (806) 742-3000 or ann.mastergeorge@ttu.edu

Provided by:
Texas Tech University

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles