Temper outbursts are commonly shown by people with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and can cause great problems for people with the syndrome, their family members and caregivers. One common reason for temper outbursts is that people with PWS find changes to routines or to plans very difficult. This difficulty with change is linked to impairment in a particular cognitive function called task switching.
The objective of this project is to develop a computer software training program to improve task switching. The program will be sensitive to the individual needs of people with PWS. Collaboration between Computer Engineers and Psychologists will ensure that the skills that participants learn are not limited to the training environment but instead transfer to general improvements in task switching.
Six children with PWS and their parents/caregivers will participate. Children will be given access to selected computer games over one month in order to compile a set of computer game components that children find highly motivating. Following this, on three occasions children will take part in several sessions of engaging with different draft versions of the training. Children’s behaviour will be observed, heart rate, skin conductance facial muscular activity, and child- / parent- reports will be recorded, and children’s performance on the training activities will be measured. These measurements will allow a version of the training to be compiled that is optimal for producing improvements in task switching. Children will then participate in the training program, and a preferred computer game (a placebo), each over five weeks. Improvements in task switching will be measured using carefully designed cognitive tests and an informant report questionnaire.
Evidence from this study that the training can produce improvements in task switching is critical to secure funding to further develop cognitive training as an effective intervention for temper outbursts in people with PWS.
Additional information about the TASTER project (Training Attention Switching for Temper Episode Reduction) can be found at www.tasterproject.com. For additional recruitment details on TASTER and related projects focused on understanding and reducing temper outbursts in PWS, please review these study opportunities.
Note: Funding for this project has been provided by FPWR-UK.
Developing a Task Switching Training Game for Children With a Rare Genetic Syndrome Linked to Intellectual Disability. Robb N, Waller A, Woodcock KA. Simulation & Gaming, 2019.
Rigidity in routines and the development of resistance to change in individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome. Haig EL, Woodcock KA. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 2017 May;61(5):488-500.
Kate Anne Woodcock, Ph.D.
Queens University, Belfast, Ireland