Synchrony, early development and psychopathology


The current multidisciplinary project is at interface of Child Psychiatry, Developmental Psychology, Social Signal Processing and Computational Neurosciences.
The project aims to develop engineering tools to detect and assess synchrony and dyssynchrony between interactive partners during early pathological development. In human behavior, early development and infant/care giver interactions are paradigmatic interactive situation in which synchrony is a key process. Behavior matching means that the infant and the caregiver have simultaneous behaviors. Synchrony means also that the infant and the caregiver move fluidly from one state to the next. In sum, synchronic maternal behaviors are related to efficient mother infant interactions whereas dyssynchronic ones qualify improper mother infant interactions (Feldman, 2003).
Synchrony is a complex phenomenon that requires the perception and understanding of social and communicative signals (speech, linguistic cues, prosody, gesture, emotions…) and also a continuous adaptation. Implementation of interactive algorithm in human machine interfaces within complex tasks requires a better understanding of human strategies to regulate interaction, in particular synchrony. This new domain of research is named Social Signal Processing (Vinciarelli et al. 2009). To this purpose, research in developmental psychology offers a good opportunity to enhance computational models of such phenomena and vice-versa (Meltzoff et al., 2009).
The current project aims to enhance the synergy between three domains: child psychiatry, developmental psychology and computational neurosciences by addressing synchrony whether associated with automatic systems or human psychopathologies. The idea is to compare synchronic dyadic interaction versus dys-synchronic ones, and to develop automatic tools adapted to address the phenomenon. Objectives of the project are:

  1. Characterizing synchrony/dys-synchrony in mother infant interaction occurring in situation of severe neglect (WP2) or during emerging of autism in West syndrome (WP4); 
  2. Assessing whether synchronic behavior during a computerized test for comprehension of gesture language could be a marker of efficiency or pathology in young children without oral language (WP3); 
  3. Detecting automatically dys-synchrony (WP1); 
  4. Modeling synchrony using computational method (WP1).