logo SBA


Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-05062015-153702

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
ICT novel methods for early detection and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Ing. Pioggia, Giovanni
tutor Ing. Billeci, Lucia
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Autonomic system
  • ECG
  • Eye tracker technology
  • GSR
  • Psychological stress
  • Social robots
  • Wearable systems
Graduation session start date
Release date
The main research aim is the development of innovative ICT application protocols and integration of technologies in monitoring, evaluation and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. Personalized interventions, tested and validated on objective and measurable neurophysiopathological criteria, were performed for the early identification of endophenotypes profiles of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Interactive technologies, such as wearable sensors and social robotics, were studied to enrich interventions, facilitate communication and support data collection. During the research activity, the investigation of physiological processes was done through the provision of continuous and personalized healthcare designing new methodologies focusing on multi-parametric real-time body monitoring systems, intelligent processing and physiological modelling. Eye tracking technology was applied to assess the gaze scan paths in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) after a training aimed to teach cognitive-emotional skills and during different joint attention tasks as regards their ability to press the child toward a social response or a social initiative. The research studies involved, also, the design of experimental paradigms and clinical trials dedicated to explore how Socially Assistive Robots may enhance the socio-emotional skills and develop the pragmatic use of emotions in children with ASD. The experimental set-ups include non-invasive measurements of electro-physiological signals, such as ECG, electrodermal response systems through non-invasive and wearable systems, as well as the children’s behaviours. The primary objective is to establish and determine physiological, behavioural and psycho-physiological biomarkers such as the skills and performance in the social-emotional interactions through wearable technology during eye tracking tasks and child-robot interactions. The feasibility of using this type of technology was tested for the assessment of autonomic function and stress level in Anorexia Nervosa adolescents in a clinical environment. The psycho-physiological parameters, used in these studies, were significant and discriminating in the identification of a state of stress/engagement or relaxation. Finally, an additional study was done to evaluate the efficacy of a new technological paradigm, Interreality, for the management and prevention of psychological stress. The findings of this work provide initial evidence that a technology-enhanced Interreality protocol provides better outcomes than the traditionally accepted gold standard for psychological stress treatment, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.