The enTRAIN Study: Physiological synchrony in children with autism

Jillian Sullivan

Individuals with autism are known to have difficulties connecting with other people, reciprocating social interactions, and being emotionally regulated by others. Yet, until recently, very little attention has been given to the way people interact together, in a system, rather than by themselves. We propose a new way to collect data on how caregivers and their children, with and without autism, affect and are affected by each other (i.e., how they "sync up" with one another), both in their behavior and in their physiology. We also introduce a customizable digital-physical smart toy platform that will allow us to test hypotheses and collect data about patterns of caregiver-child synchrony in a naturalistic and engaging environment. MIT and Northeastern are forging a new collaboration between smart toy technology and autism research that will help uncover how the social brain develops.