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01.12.2014 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

Molecular Autism 1/2014

Facing the challenge of teaching emotions to individuals with low- and high-functioning autism using a new Serious game: a pilot study

Molecular Autism > Ausgabe 1/2014
Sylvie Serret, Stephanie Hun, Galina Iakimova, Jose Lozada, Margarita Anastassova, Andreia Santos, Stephanie Vesperini, Florence Askenazy
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​2040-2392-5-37) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SS (first author) was involved in designing the Serious game, conducting the experiment, interpreting data, and drafting the article. SH (second author) was involved in designing the Serious game, conducting the experiment, collecting data and drafting the article. GI was involved in designing the Serious game and conducting the experiment. JL and MA were involved in designing the Serious game, conceptualizing and creating the tactile stimulations and supervising the project. AS was involved in data analyses and interpretation, and drafting the article. SV and FA were involved in interpreting the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



It is widely accepted that emotion processing difficulties are involved in Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). An increasing number of studies have focused on the development of training programs and have shown promising results. However, most of these programs are appropriate for individuals with high-functioning ASC (HFA) but exclude individuals with low-functioning ASC (LFA). We have developed a computer-based game called JeStiMulE based on logical skills to teach emotions to individuals with ASC, independently of their age, intellectual, verbal and academic level.
The aim of the present study was to verify the usability of JeStiMulE (which is its adaptability, effectiveness and efficiency) on a heterogeneous ASC group. We hypothesized that after JeStiMulE training, a performance improvement would be found in emotion recognition tasks.


A heterogeneous group of thirty-three children and adolescents with ASC received two one-hour JeStiMulE sessions per week over four weeks. In order to verify the usability of JeStiMulE, game data were collected for each participant. Furthermore, all participants were presented before and after training with five emotion recognition tasks, two including pictures of game avatars (faces and gestures) and three including pictures of real-life characters (faces, gestures and social scenes).


Descriptive data showed suitable adaptability, effectiveness and efficiency of JeStiMulE. Results revealed a significant main effect of Session on avatars (ANOVA: F (1,32) = 98.48, P < .001) and on pictures of real-life characters (ANOVA: F (1,32) = 49.09, P < .001). A significant Session × Task × Emotion interaction was also found for avatars (ANOVA: F (6,192) = 2.84, P = .01). This triple interaction was close to significance for pictures of real-life characters (ANOVA: F (12,384) = 1.73, P = .057). Post-hoc analyses revealed that 30 out of 35 conditions found a significant increase after training.


JeStiMulE appears to be a promising tool to teach emotion recognition not only to individuals with HFA but also those with LFA. JeStiMulE is thus based on ASC-specific skills, offering a model of logical processing of social information to compensate for difficulties with intuitive social processing.

Trial registration

Comité de Protection des Personnes Sud Méditerranée V (CPP): reference number 11.046 (https://​cpp-sud-mediterranee-v.​fr/​).
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