With Mozart sonata, an app and a robot seek to give quality of life to autistic children

A web application to stimulate reading and writing, a robotic arm, a robot and a Mozart piece are part of the tools that a team from the Brain Research Center of the Universidad Veracruzana (UV) has used in search of improving quality of life of minors diagnosed with autism.

It is about using therapies or enriched environments for that purpose, before thinking about giving drugs.explained Anllely Grizzet Gutiérrez Rodríguez, specialist in the neurobiology of autism and member of the Brain Research Institute.

In interview with The Day, On the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, which is celebrated this April 2, the specialist recalled that it is “a neurobiological disorder that manifests itself in childhood, and whose characteristics include deterioration in communication and social interaction, as well as as restrictive and repetitive interests that limit the child’s integration.

Autism spectrum disorder is not a disease, it is not something that can be cured and there are no medications to eradicate it. People who present it have a brain that does not lack anything, they only have an excess of neuronal connections towards some areas and a decrease in these towards others.

Brain connections

Gutiérrez Rodríguez explained that the UV’s commitment to using therapies and enriched environments is that the brain connections of an autistic person increasingly resemble those of a neurotypical person.

Because research has shown that children with autism have a high interest in electronic devices, one of the tools developed is the Reading-Writing in Autism (LEA) web application to stimulate reading and writing.

It has eight sections: my profile, my family, my body, my emotions, ABC, I write, I read, I play and an additional one for training in the use of devices. In addition, it has exercises in different degrees of complexity that aim to stimulate the user to increase their skills. Likewise, the typography, colorimetry and sounds were appropriate to the requirements of the population with the disorder.

The LEA web application is available to the public because it has proven to be an appropriate educational medium for the population with autism (without accompanying intellectual impairment), as it stimulates learning acquisition.

LEA was developed in collaboration with the Xalapa Technological Institute. After its use, there are children who were able to read and write, and went from using the computer to using pencil and paper.

▲ Scientists at the Brain Research Center explain that they work with therapies and enriched environments, before thinking about drugs.Photo courtesy of the experts

Cardiorespiratory parameters

Another characteristic of children with autism is that they have increased cardiorespiratory parameters, which contribute to them suffering high levels of anxiety. One of the research team’s proposals was to reduce these indicators through controlled stimulation with the Sonata for two pianos K448, of Mozart, which was achieved, although it is a temporary effect, since in the following sessions they returned to the high levels.

Musical stimulation with Mozart’s composition is effective, but more studies are still required to find a strategy to make the changes permanent.

Jorge Manzo Denes, a specialist in the neurobiology of autism, added that another characteristic of children with autism is that their attention spans are short, so in collaboration with the Xalapa Technological Institute, a special classroom, called open field, was built in which a robot was introduced as a stimulus.

Using a camera placed on the ceiling of the classroom, the children’s movements were recorded and the information was sent to a computer, which recorded the time they paid attention to the robot and the period they spent wandering around the room.

We discovered that if we maintained this periodic stimulation, twice a week, 20 minutes each day, there was an increase in the attention time that the children gave to the robot compared to the time they spent wandering.

Manzo Denes indicated: We bring the registered data, we are doing the corresponding analyzes and we are going to publish it in the coming months.

The researcher added that another trait of people with autism is that they have very few facial expressions, it seems that they are the same whether they are happy, sad or angry. We are working with a robotic arm to stimulate the muscles of the face so that they have greater expressions.

The research team includes Salvador Zepeda Esquivel, who carries out virtual stimulation on movement in the open field; Hugo Manuel Libreros Jiménez, who carried out the study on facial expression in response to the use of a robotic arm and mirror stimulation, and Rosalba Aguilar Velázquez, who graduated in February 2021 with the web application for the development of literacy potential .

By Editor

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