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Video Game Training to Improve Eye Gaze Behavior in Children with Autism

Researchers devise experiments to improve the motor planning and execution capabilities of children with autism. Using eye tracking technology, they collaborated with a developer to create a set of video games which use eye gaze as the controller to steer spaceships, blow up mushrooms and play whack-a-mole. So far, preliminary results have been promising. Subjects have shown improvements in other fixation and spatial attention tasks after daily videogame training.

Leanne Chukoskie
Leanne Chukoskie wearing the eye tracking headset

The ultimate question is whether improvements in fixation and spatial attention can translate into meaningful behavioral changes for those on the autism spectrum, like an increase in social engagement. These researchers plan to develop a system for clinical use that can quantify a patient’s real-world gaze behavior.

The researchers train spatial attention by taking advantage of the fact that covert shifts of spatial attention and its overt manifestation in gaze shifts share underlying neural circuitry. They use this fact to train spatial attention by using gaze position measured from an eye tracking device as input to the game. This unusual type of input engages spatial attention effectively, especially because we typically make 3-4 fast gaze shifts every second. To play a game with one's eyes, focus is paramount-- any loss of the intense focus on the goal results in a loss in the game. This unique style of game play trains two aspects of attention simultaneously, which researchers believe leads to the increased gains in attention performance they observe in the lab. 2017