Mapping Autistic Cognitive Disabilities

MACA is a research program on autistic cognition. Its conceptual instrument is optimal cognition. The postulate is the following: even though the cognitive phenotype is variable inter and intra-individually, which is particularly true in autism, any individual placed in an enabling environment harnesses the cognitive functions best suited to this particular situation, which makes it possible not only to identify the individual cognitive process but also to measure it at its peak. This approach complements the classical paradigm for the study of cognitive deficits.

The objective of MACA is to map the cognitive and perceptive abilities of individuals with autism and to propose a taxonomy of autism that integrates the peaks of mental abilities.

The MACA program is conceived from the outset as open research, to which scientists and citizens can contribute. It is divided into three areas of research:


Creation of experimental video games designed to measure the cognitive skills of players. This approach is based on the concept of Psychological Flow and on the motivating power of video games. The objective is to obtain, for each individual, a profile of his peaks of cognitive and perceptive skills.

Our first game, StopBus, is currently in production. It will evaluate the ability of autistic children to produce algorithms. For many children, video games provide an attractive, accessible and reassuring environment. It is possible to play from home, on computer, tablet and smartphone. The security of sensitive data is ensured by anonymization and aggregation operations.

Because we believe that the fun quality of video games is fundamental both for the experience of the participants and for the quality of the data we collect, we have abandoned the term “serious games” in favor of “meaningful games”. In other words, we want participation in our research to be as simple as child’s play.

Contributors: Mourdjen Bari, Sylvain Terlutte, Benjamin Misiak. With the support of Compas and Auticonsult.

f-MACA :

Research into the biographical, cognitive, perceptive and emotional specificities of women with Asperger’s syndrome or any form of high level autism in order to identify the factors explaining the diagnostic difficulties in this population.

Collaborators: Adeline Lacroix, Pauline Duret, Laurent Mottron, Agnieszka Rynkiewicz. With the support of the Mission for Interdisciplinarity of the CNRS.


To describe, develop and apply the potential of an atypical musical instrument (the OMNI), on the one hand as an empowerment tool for individuals with severe disabilities (especially the most severe forms of autism), and on the other hand as a field for ecological observation of non-verbal cognitive abilities.

Collaborators: Laurent Bonnasse-Gahot, Patrice Moullet. With the support of the association Musaiques chaired by Cédric Villani.


    Fabienne Cazalis
    Centre d’analyse et de mathématique sociales