Centers and Institutes

The InterFACE Center

The Interactive and Functional Assessment of Communication and Emotion (InterFACE) Center is a natural observation laboratory designed to research emotional and behavioral deficits in people with neurological, psychological and developmental disorders. With a living room design, the Center uses three high-definition cameras and a microphone mounted on the wall to observe and record behaviors and interpersonal interactions of participants. Behind the scenes, in the control room, clinicians monitor participants’ audio-video recordings on the computers.

The InterFACE Center provides an evidence-based treatment approach in combination with the newest, state-of-the-art equipment in one lab not found anywhere else in the world. Located at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, this facility uses physiological monitoring, video recording and eye tracking technology to study emotions and interpersonal relationships affected by neurological disorders and injury for research.

Center director Dawn Neumann, MD and her colleagues in the IU School of Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation received funding from one new federally funded grant and two state-funded grants. Financial support for the InterFACE Center is provided by Indiana University Health; IU School of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana; and Dr. Lisa Thompson.

Laboratory Technology

Patients’ physiological responses, such as ECG, impedance cardiography, finger pulse, galvanic skin response (systemic arousal), respiration, and EMG can be monitored wirelessly during interpersonal interactions, or while completing activities on the computer. This wireless system is a huge advantage, as participants can feel more comfortable and natural during these recordings. The physiologic recordings can be synchronized with the audio-video, facial expression, and eye-tracking recordings, so that the physiologic responses are linked with behavioral events.

Facial expressions are believed to be the most dominant and important nonverbal cue for communicating emotional information. It is therefore critical for research focused on studying emotions. However, accurately identifying facial affect can be subjective. The FaceReader software automatically and objectively analyzes peoples’ facial expressions in a matter of minutes. It continually monitors the degree to which each of the following emotions is being expressed: happy, sad, angry, fearful, surprised, disgust and neutral.

Eye tracking helps clinicians and researchers see things through a patient’s eyes. Specifically, it advances clinical knowledge and understanding about what aspects of an emotional stimulus that patients find to be salient and relevant. Calibrated in just seconds, eye-tracking equipment can be used (with or without a computer) to record participants’ eye movements, monitor fixation duration and sequence, pupil size, and many other eye-tracking variables.

Virtual reality has become an increasingly popular method for evaluating a variety of skills and treating an assortment of deficits, in numerous populations with emotional, physical and cognitive disorders.  Immersed in a 3D world of different scenes and scenarios, virtual reality provides a unique ecologic and naturalistic environment that is safe and controlled. The system allows for 3D customization to be synchronized with physiological recordings.