Research on reward circuitry, autism and games that teach social perceptual skills

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tend to have difficulty perceiving and interpreting facial expressions and recognizing a person's identity by observing their face. Can video games help children with ASD learn these skills? That's what a team from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is hoping to accomplish by studying and testing 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 ASD. 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 will help researchers determine how the games influence facial perception skills and how the brain changes in response to these game experiences. Additionally, a 2.0 version of the Let's Face It! game will be developed, which is a multimedia, computer-based intervention that is designed to teach face processing skills to children with autism.

The project was funded as part of Health Games Research, a national program of the Pioneer Portfolio dedicated to funding and supporting research to advance the effectiveness of interactive games for health.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $285,705.00

Awarded on: 8/25/2009

Time frame: 9/1/2009 - 12/31/2012

Grant Number: 66727


Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, 19104-4399


Robert T. Schultz
Project Director


Salim Zayat
Project Director