A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2017 | Number 4, Volume 31

Video games help to improve attention, gaze

A home-based video game program may be effective in improving gaze and attention in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to a new study. 

Leanne Chukoskie and colleagues note that individuals with ASD have difficulty re-orienting their attention quickly and efficiently. “Similarly,” they say, “fast reorienting saccadic eye movements [movements of the eyes between fixation points] are also inaccurate and more variable in both endpoint and timing.” Atypical gaze and attention are among the earliest symptoms observed in ASD, and the researchers say that “disruption of these foundation skills critically affects development of higher level cognitive and social behavior.” Thus, they suggest, correcting gaze and attention deficits may have a broad effect on ASD symptoms. 

To test the efficacy of specially designed video games in improving gaze and attention skills in ASD, the researchers conducted an eight-week pilot study. In the study, eight adolescents with ASD (six of whom completed the study) spent 30 minutes per day, five days per week, playing video games designed to train fixation, speed, and accuracy of eye movements, as well as control of visuospatial attention. After initial training, the intervention was carried out in the participants’ homes. 

The researchers report that following training, all six participants showed improvement in attention, eye movement control, or both. In addition, all participants could use the video games independently, making the intervention convenient and cost-effective.


Citations

“A novel approach to training attention and gaze in ASD: A feasibility and efficacy pilot study,” Leanne Chukoskie, Marissa Westerfi eld, and Jeanne Townsend, Developmental Neurobiology, December 2017 (in press). Address: Leanne Chukoskie, Institute for Neural Computation, University of California, San Diego, CA 92093, [email protected]