Neurofeedback therapies have shown promising clinical results in improving the attention problems of children with autism. Recent work in Human-Computer Interaction has shown Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) serious games can keep users focused during neurofeedback therapies and give them the guidance they need to promote the self-regulation of their brainwave patterns. However, there is limited work exploring if BCI serious games are appropriate for children with autism .
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that a BCI video game we developed outperforms current tools being used to support the cognitive, behavioral, and attention needs of children with severe autism during neurofeedback training. In this research project, we present the design, development, and evaluation of an BCI videogama to support Neurofeedback training called FarmerKeeper.
Keywords: Brain Computer Interface, EEG, Attention, Children, Autism, Neurofeedback
It uses a consumer-grade BCI headset to read user’s attention and control the visual stimuli in the game. The game story unfolds on a farm. The goal of the game is to maintain children’s attention above a threshold to control a runner who is seeking for lost farm animals to take them back to their pens. FarmerKeeper has five different scenarios, where the child could seek for different farm animals like pigs, hens, cows, sheep, and horses. At the beginning of the game, an old farmer tells the child that there was a storm that scared the animals who es- caped from their pens and got lost. This old farmer plays the role of the neurofeedback therapist within the game, giving away visual and verbal instructions and prompts. The little farmer plays the role of the child in the game. The little farmer drives a truck to seek for the lost animals and returns them to their pens. While running the little farmer catches animals and wins coins.
Interaction measurements: The user’s attention read with the BCI headset controls the speed of the little farmer’s truck, according to a threshold defined by the neurofeedback therapist at the beginning of the session. This threshold can be used to increase the difficulty of the game according to each child progress and overall capabilities.
Evaluation methods: Twenty-six children with ASD used FarmerKeeper, for 10 weeks as a part of a Neurofeedback intervention in the Pasitos school clinic located in Tijuana. Participants were randomly assigned to either use FarmerKeeper (experimental group) or cartoons (control group). We conducted pre- and post- assessment attention evalution using the ADHD-T and the CRSD-ant test.
Outcomes and results: FarmerKeeper is an effective training method to improve attention, attentional control and sustained attention of children with severe autism; and excels the use of cartoons that are currently used as a gold standard.