Socially-assistive robots help kids with autism learn by providing personalized prompts

(Photo: USC Viterbi School of Engineering)

Socially-assistive robots help children with autism learn imitative behavior with ‘graded cueing’
This week, a team of researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering will share results from a pilot study on the effects of using humanoid robots to help children with autism practice imitation behavior in order to encourage their autonomy. Findings from the study, entitled “Graded Cueing Feedback in Robot-Mediated Imitation Practice for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” will be presented at the 23rd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN) conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Aug. 27.The pilot study was led by Maja Matarić, USC Viterbi Vice Dean for Research and the Chan Soon-Shiong Chair in Computer Science, Neuroscience and Pediatrics, whose research focuses on how robotics can help those with various special needs, including Alzheimer’s patients and children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Her research team included doctoral student Jillian Greczek, postdoctoral researcher Amin Atrash, and undergraduate computer science student Edward Kaszubski.

“There is a vast health care need that can be aided by intelligent machines capable of helping people of all ages to be less lonely, to do rehabilitative exercises, and to learn social behaviors,” said Matarić. “There’s so much that can be done that can complement human care as well as other emerging technologies.”

New research: Parents of anxious children can avoid the ‘protection trap’

(Photo: Dwayne Bent)

Anxiety in kids one of the most common disorders

Parents naturally comfort their children when they are scared, but new research shows that some reactions may actually reinforce their children’s feelings of anxiety.

A new Arizona State University study shows that parents whose children suffer from anxiety often fall into the “protection trap” that may influence their child’s behavior. The paper, “Variations in the Influence of Parental Socialization of Anxiety among Clinic Referred Children,” was published in the journal, “Child Psychiatry and Human Development,” by ASU graduate student Lindsay Holly, who is earning her doctoral degree in clinical psychology, and Armando A. Pina, ASU associate professor in child developmental psychology. Researchers analyzed self-report questionnaires and clinical interviews that were completed by 70 children aged 6 to 16 who were being treated for anxiety at a university-based program.

“Anxiety in kids is one of the most common disorders in childhood. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and necessary to stay safe. It’s when the problematic levels of anxiety crop up when you can’t go to school or hang out with friends that it becomes a major problem,” Holly said. “That’s when we can really look at what parents are doing and guide them in having a big impact on helping their kids cope with fears.”

ADHD children make poor decisions due to less differentiated learning processes

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Which shirt do we put on in the morning? Do we drive to work or take the train? From which takeaway joint do we want to buy lunch? We make hundreds of different decisions every day. Even if these often only have a minimal impact, it is extremely important for our long-term personal development to make decisions that are as optimal as possible. People with ADHD often find this difficult, however. They are known to make impulsive decisions, often choosing options which bring a prompt but smaller reward instead of making a choice that yields a greater reward later on down the line. Researchers from the University Clinics for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Zurich, now reveal that different decision-making processes are responsible for such suboptimal choices and that these take place in the middle of the frontal lobe.

 

ADHD, substance abuse and conduct disorder develop from the same neurocognitive deficits

(Photo: Krgarts via wikimedia)

Study suggests ways to treat these deficits before the psychiatric symptoms develop

Researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre have traced the origins of ADHD, substance abuse and conduct disorder, and found that they develop from the same neurocognitive deficits, which in turn explains why they often occur together. “Psychopathology exists on multiple continua of brain function. Some of these dimensions contribute to a multitude of problems, others contribute to specific problems. Together, they explain patterns of comorbidity such as why ADHD and conduct problems co-occur with substance misuse at such a high rate,” explained the study’s lead author, Professor Patricia Conrod. “Our findings suggest that risk for externalizing problems exist on a continuum in the general population, are easily measured and can be targeted before diagnosable problems arise. The findings also help reduce stigma and address some of the complexities when diagnosing and treating concurrent psychiatric problems. The implications are that clinicians can manage multiple psychiatric problems by focusing on how a young person is functioning on a fewkey neurocognitive dimensions. The next step is to develop evidence-based intervention strategies that will target these three areas of brain function”

Involuntary eye movement a foolproof indication for ADHD diagnosis

(Photo: Hans-Werner34 via wikimedia)

Tel Aviv University researchers develop diagnostic tool for the most commonly misdiagnosed disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed – and misdiagnosed – behavioral disorder in children in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, there are currently no reliable physiological markers to diagnose ADHD. Doctors generally diagnose the disorder by recording a medical and social history of the patient and the family, discussing possible symptoms and observing the patient’s behavior. But an incorrect evaluation can lead to overmedication with Ritalin (methylphenidate), which has parents everywhere concerned.

Now a new study from Tel Aviv University researchers may provide the objective tool medical professionals need to accurately diagnose ADHD. According to the research, published in Vision Research, involuntary eye movements accurately reflect the presence of ADHD, as well as the benefits of medical stimulants that are used to treat the disorder.