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Researcher Kuriakose, Selvia
Advisor Lahiri, Uttama
Source IIT Gandhinagar
Content type Text
Educational Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Publisher IIT Gandhinagar
Date of Submission 2017-01-01
Language English
Subject Domain (in DDC) Technology ♦ Engineering & allied operations
Subject Keyword Anxiety
Abstract Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with prevalence rate of approximately 1 in 150 in India is defined as a neurodevelopment disorder often characterized by impairments in communication, reciprocal social interaction and explicit expression of affective states. There is a growing consensus that intensive behavioral and educational intervention programs can significantly improve short and long term outcomes for individuals with ASD and their families. However, with limited availability of trained professional resources, lack of widely available efficacious intervention facilities and the enormous costs of treatment, a majority of these individuals fail to achieve adaptive independence as adults. Recent research shows that emerging technology can play an important role in providing more accessible, intensive and individualized intervention in the future. Many studies have investigated application of technology-assisted tools, such as, computer technology, Virtual Reality (VR), and robotic systems for individuals with autism. In our present work, we chose VR because of its malleability, controllability, modifiable sensory stimulation, individualized approach, safety, simplified but explorative training environment due to potential reduction of problematic aspects of human interaction particularly during initial skill training. Since VR mimics real environments in terms of imagery and contexts, it may offer efficient generalization of skills from VR environment to real world. The currently available VR environments as applied to intervention are designed to chain learning via aspects of performance alone (correct, or incorrect) thereby limiting individualization of application. In conventional techniques, a therapist adjusts the intervention paradigm by monitoring the affective state, such as, anxiety of these individuals for effective floor-time-therapy. In our study, we choose anxiety as the target affective state, since anxiety is a common concern in clinical samples with autism and this can have adverse effects on one’s performance in a social task. To foster effective social communication skills, the technology-assisted system should intelligently adapt itself to a user’s anxiety states with high degree of individualization. However, adolescents with autism often possess deficits in explicit expression of their anxiety state thereby posing limitations on traditional observation based techniques. Thus, researchers have been studying the potential of other modalities, such as, physiological signals that are continuously available and not directly impacted by one’s communication deficits. Also, the physiological signals might offer an avenue for recognizing one’s anxiety state that is less obvious for humans but easily decipherable by computers. The primary goal of our research was to develop a VR-based technology with potential relevance to ASD intervention. To achieve the broader objective of offering an adaptive VR based social communication platform to participants, we designed usability studies that aimed to address the following questions: (i) whether the VR-based social communication system has potential to have implication on one’s performance and physiological indices, (ii) whether the system has the potential of mapping one’s physiological indices to the anxiety level while interacting with the VR-based social communication tasks and (iii) finally whether the Physiology-sensitive VR-based social communication system has potential to contribute to improving one’s performance in a social task. Results of our usability studies indicate the potential of VR-based social communication system to have effect on one’s performance and physiological indices (used as biomarkers of one’s anxiety level). Our novel VR-based Adaptive Response Technology (ART) was equipped with Anxiety-Sensitive feature. Specifically, this Anxiety-Sensitive (AS) system was capable of objectively identifying and quantifying one’s anxiety level from physiological biomarkers to adaptively offer tasks of different challenge levels in an individualized manner thereby helping to foster improved social communication-related performance. Our research showed that our intelligent adaptive VR-based Anxiety-Sensitive system has a potential to contribute to improved performance among individuals with ASD in atleast some of the core social communication aspects. Also, this can help to identify elements of social interaction that might be anxiety-provoking for this target group in a very individualized manner. Additionally, such an individualized VR-based Adaptive Response Technology can provide information on one’s physiological profile and thereby can serve as a potent complementary tool in the hands of the interventionist. The inherent design flexibility of the VR-based system can be used to provide a portable home-based social communication skill learning platform that can be used by an individual with ASD beyond the clinical setting. Further, the ability of such a VR-based system to offer individualized feedback and reinforcement strategies can aid the therapist to monitor and work on improving the social communication skill learning of an individual with ASD. We hope that the realization of such a system may pave the way for intensive, intelligent, and individualized intervention paradigms in future. Thus, we believe that this novel technology can serve as a stepping stone in our endeavors to develop a comprehensive social skill learning platform that can improve the functioning and quality of life of individuals with ASD.
Learning Resource Type Thesis
Organization Dept. of Electrical Engineering