A Computational Model of Autism

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has title::A Computational Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder
status: ongoing
Master: project within::Cognitive Science
Student name: student name::Yara van der Laan
Start start date:=2010/02/01
End end date:=2010/07/01
Supervisor: Jan Treur
Poster: has poster::Media:Media-poster_thesisYara.pdf

Signature supervisor



Autism is a developmental disorder. There cannot be given a conclusive description of autism, because of the wide range of gradual differences seen in autistic persons. Autism is a neurological abnormality but is not yet explained in terms of its causes. The major feature that characterizes autistic persons are deficits in social interaction, but also abnormalities in language within a social context and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior are seen.

Main characteristics can be observed in all autistic persons, but this does not mean that all individuals with autism are the same. It is very rare that in one person all kinds of autistic behavior are found. People with the same diagnosis may also be different from each other, featuring another range of behaviors. Gradual differences are perceived in both autistic individuals and the forms of autism (Autism, Asperger’s Syndrom, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). There seem to be no strict boundaries in the spectrum of autism. Possibly, autism is caused by a number of factors. The strength of one factor might be responsible for the classification of the diagnosed form of autism in a person.

The main goal of the master project will be the modeling of autistic behavior. When you model those behaviors, validation of ideas and hypotheses about autism could take place. I will make use of the information of DSM- IV concerning autism, as a starting point for collecting descriptions of behavior in autism. Also hypotheses about behavioral outcome are taken into account, such as the explanation of Marco Iacoboni that there is a deficit in mirror neurons in autism. Iacoboni’s theory states that this neurological impairment affects imitation and could be the cause of the developmental disorder.

By making use of scenarios that describe typical behaviors of autism I will try to model the disorder. The obtained computational model of autistic behavior will employ parameters that can be varied. While experimenting with the variation I am aiming at clarifying what differences in settings are related to which forms of autism. This could lead to a broader understanding towards what features are typical for a certain form of autism within its spectrum.