Tag Archives: autisticresearch

Rebuilding social schemas


Recently, there has been a breakthrough in Autism research through computer games. This new development helps create a new schema for social interactions using a computer simulation. The computer game puts the autistic individual into the role of a computer character. The character encounters people in situations including dates, new neighbors, and interviews. In each of these circumstances the character needs to react appropriately. The distinct facial features of the other characters in the simulation make it easier for the autistic participant to think through an appropriate response based on how the other person presents his or herself. This in turn develops a script of how to act in social settings. Without support children with ASD are not able to properly form scripts, schemas for events. With this newly developed schema the child is then able to develop a script of how to react in certain situations as well as the chance to adhere to social norms. The program gives the player time to respond in a safe and inviting environment with many different encounters that facilitate the use of imperative social skills. http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/research/research_topic/social-cognition
This new program is facilitated through the use of EEG’s and fMRI’s to show researchers which regions of the brain are activated during social interactions. As it turns out, tests have shown that the neural system is very malleable, showing regions of the brain associated with social cognition “light up.” The tests, in turn, show researchers what will be most useful for the simulations and what they can use in a specific social setting to help autistic individuals develop an updated script for their new social schema. Thus it facilitates individuals to feel more successful and comfortable in social situations. The virtual environment provides research centers such as BrainHealth researchers the opportunity to measure activation in the brain that leads to further developments in the computer simulation. The brain has shown major improvements with virtual training over time. Young adults with autism showed increased activation in brain regions associated with social understating. The results also show that there were more connections forming between brain regions needed to exchange information during social interactions.https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/virtual-reality-training-improves-social-skills-and-brain-activity
Social schemas, developed in childhood are weak and even lacking in children with autism. They do not have knowledge relating to facial features and how to read them when interacting with their peers. Normally one has a script of what takes place in social settings such as walking up to a peer and immediately reading their facial features in order to predict what type of mood they may be in. Knowing this information, a conversation can be started based off of facial features as well as social cues. It is as if the schema is being recreated in order to help autistic children react properly in social settings. The ultimate goal of the computer simulation is to make social scripts more fluid with peers, constructing them as second nature.
For many years psychologists have taken an interest in children with Autism and why they react so differently in social situations. Studies show that there are insufficient pathways for transmitting information between the frontal and posterior regions of the brain. With insufficient connections in the brain comes the inability to communicate in a conscientious way. This creates communication problems, that without a standard representation of socializing impedes on everyday living. By definition, Autism spectrum disorder is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning. Psychologists are trying to find ways to train the brain in order to make adjustments so that autistic individuals can communicate effectively with their peers and community, without worry and insecurity. For it is believed that people must have an understanding of social skills to facilitate healthy relationships with others in any environment to become successful individuals.http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021148