Autism Projects

Evoking Movement Intentionality in Children with ASD

This project aims at harnessing and enhancing intentionality in the natural movements of children with ASD using a child-machine interface that in closed loop with external media co-adapts the statistics of the real time hand movements and the statistics of the media states as the child comes to realize the purpose of the task and attains control of the media. The child does not know at first what the goals and priorities of the task are. In due time the child self-discovers the goals and learns to navigate through the priorities of the goals to maximize reward (watching the media continuously).

Children develop self-control and that constitutes the reward. It is a self-sustaining system that enhances self-autonomy, intentionality and motor control.

Assessing Natural Movements of Children with ASD

within the Classroom Settings

This project measures the natural movements of children with ASD in relation to typically developing peers in the classroom settings. They perform a version of a match-to-sample task adapted to a touch screen and learn to perform the experiment on their own. Initially they are assisted by their personal teacher but gradually they learn to perform the task independently. We have developed the techniques to track changes from random to systematic to intended modes based on the statistical patterns of movement variability and the temporal dynamics structure of their hand motions.

Measuring Motor Learning Gains

through the Natural Movements' Variability

This project measures the natural motions of individuals with ASD in relation to typical age-gender matched controls as they perform activities of daily living and tracks their learning and performance gains. Movements are performed at different instructed speeds and under different forms of sensory guidance. We extract the patterns of movement variability and derive stochastic maps relating speed and acceleration maxima to track the progression of movement fluidity longitudinally.

Measuring Kinesthetic Re-afference in Natural Movements' Variability

Kinesthetic re-afference across ages

Our recent work has unveiled differences in the maturation of kinesthetic re-afferent inputs between the typical course of development and the course of development in autism spectrum disorders. This maturation path follows a scaling power law and reveals in the typical course a transition from random, noisy and restricted kinesthetic input to predictable, reliable and diversified kinesthetic input. This transition does not take place in autism, where regardless of age, gender or verbal capabilities the kinesthetic re-afferent input carries the stochastic signatures of typically developing children below 4 years of age. We are at present further investigating this.

For additional information on autism research in the lab visit:

Sensory Motor Learning and Autism