As we live longer lives, we should all be concerned with the greatest human asset—our mental capacity.
Scientists at the Center for BrainHealth are examining ways to improve life-enhancing social cognition skills in a host of populations, including those with autism disorders and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Center researchers clinically evaluate the ability to strengthen or repair social brain networks in the aforementioned groups, impacting social behavior involved in complex social interactions absolutely vital for success in life.
Thus far, clinicians at the Center for BrainHealth have evaluated social cognition profiles in subjects with autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, and healthy controls. The profiles allow researchers to assess key social functioning areas in order to provide a comprehensive look at aspects of the brain involved. Electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques have been used to investigate regions of the brain used to navigate through social interactions, providing a baseline of mental function as well as a measurement of brain changes following short-term intensive social interventions.
Using fMRI techniques, the social cognition team at the Center for BrainHealth has identified biomarkers to further clarify variances in facial and intentionality processing. The Temporal Parietal Junction is a crucial area of the brain used for interpreting other minds.
BrainHealth scientists are developing unique virtual reality environments based in everyday life settings that will help catalyze and reinforce appropriate social perceptions and facial expressions. The program in development will have a virtual reality platform, dynamic face-tracking technology, and multiple visual and auditory feedback to enhance brain response.
With the new virtual reality environment, Center for BrainHealth researchers will be able to track an individual's progress over time both qualitatively and quantitatively as well as measure emotions, dramatically improving the daily lives of those with autism, schizophrenia, and traumatic brain injuries. Findings so far have indicated that virtual reality environments provide a safe, inviting, and effective platform in which to practice a wide variety of social interactions.