Reward Circuitry, Autism and Games that Teach Social Perceptual Skills

This study tests the effects of facial perception games on the brain activity and facial perception skills of 8- to 12-year-old children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Children with ASD tend to have difficulty perceiving and interpreting facial expressions and recognizing a person’s identity by observing their face.  The games used in the study challenge them to notice subtle differences in faces and expressions and give them opportunities to rehearse these skills and receive feedback on their performance.  Behavioral testing and use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of players’ brains before and after playing the games for 50 hours over the course of eight weeks will help the researchers determine how the games influence facial perception skills and how the brain changes in response to these game experiences.

Principal Investigator
Robert T. Schultz, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist and Professor
Department of Pediatrics
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Co-Investigator
Salim Zayat
Game Programmer
Center for Autism Research