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Jestimule: A Serious Game with Innovative Human-Computer Interface Elements for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, 3 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
S. Serret1, S. Hun2, G. Iakimova3, J. Lozada4, M. Anastassova5 and F. Askenazy6, (1)Child and adolescent psychiatry unit, Autism Resources Center PACA - Nice, Nice, France, (2)Child and adolescent psychiatry unit, Autism Resources Center PACA - Nice, NICE, France, (3)University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, Anthropologic and Cognitive and social Psychology Department, Nice, France, (4)Sensory and Ambient Interfaces Laboratory, CEA LIST, Fontenay aux roses, France, (5)Sensory and Ambient Interfaces Laboratory, CEA List, Fontenay aux roses, France, (6)Pediatric hospitals of Nice CHU-LENVAL, Child and adolescent psychiatry unit, NICE, France
Background: It is widely accepted that poor social cognition is a core problem in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). An increasing number of studies have thus focused on the development of training programs and have shown promising results. Yet, most of these programs can only be followed by individuals with high-functioning ASD and/or Asperger syndrome, which correspond to 38% of the individuals in the spectrum. We have developed a social cognition training covering a large part of the ASD spectrum and thus challenging the obstacles of low intellectual and verbal ability. JeStiMulE is a multisensory computer-based game aimed at improving a wide range of social cognition abilities, including emotion, mental state and social context processing. It is based on innovative Human-Computer Interfaces (HCI). Both conceptual and technical innovations have been introduced to make the interaction natural, efficient, reliable and easy. A special focus was put on meeting the specific needs of people with ASD in terms of perception, communication and information processing. Thus, we introduced a color code to learn emotions and a device sending tactile messages with emotional value.  

Objectives: The present study investigates the therapeutic application of JeStiMulE to improve social cognition in a heterogeneous group of ASD. The usability of game plateform is also tested.  

Methods: 33 individuals with ASD, aged from 6 to 17, with an IQ from 40 to 129. They played with JeStiMulE for 4 weeks (one hour twice a week). They were tested before and after training using social cognition tasks. These tasks included not only the game’s avatars but also real characters, in order to investigate both the learning and generalisation potential of JeStiMulE. The usability of plateform game was evaluated by an HCI questionnaire.  

Results: The results revealed a significant improvement on social cognition after using JeStiMulE. This improvement could be observed for both avatars and real characters suggesting that the progress on social cognition has the potential to extend from the game to real-life settings. Importantly, this improvement was found to be IQ-, verbal- and age-independent. The results also revealed that the innovative HCI elements of JeStiMulE were particularly adapted to the special needs of people with ASD.  

Conclusions: JeStiMulE can be beneficial to all individuals in the ASD spectrum, who are motivated to play.

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