Virtual reality helping people with autism

By Maria Kyriacou

Virtual reality helping people with autism
Researchers embrace technology in a bid to help people with autism understand social cues

April is Autism Month, and with greater awareness of the identifying traits of people on the spectrum, has come an increase in diagnosis and search for effective treatments.

Doctors are turning to technology in a bid to assist people with autism gain an understanding of how to relate to others on an appropriate emotional level.

“Virtual reality and avatar-based programs may be especially promising for people with autism who are uncomfortable in social interactions where subtle social cues are important,” said Daniel Smith, Autism Speaks senior director of discovery science, in a statement.

Virtual reality headsets have been shown to be beneficial to people with social attentiveness issues in the past. The good news is the headsets are becoming more affordable which means users will be access Autism therapy from anywhere, interacting with a therapist as an avatar.

Neuroscientists researching the concept are providing users with headsets that allow them to witness various social interactions and body language, helping in situations such as job interviews.

Researchers were heartened by significant reactions in the users’ brains after conducting brain wave monitoring experiments on adults aged 18-35.

“Our early results are beginning to reveal a remarkable degree of malleability in the neural systems involved in social cognition in adults with ASD,” said Dr. Daniel Yang, an Autism Speaks Meixner postdoctoral fellow.



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