Carlo Emmanoel Tolla de Oliveira, Carla V. M. Marques, Cleonice Weber, Paula Prata
Núcleo de Computação Eletrônica, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Mariana Souza
Faculdade de Letras,Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro,Brasil
Keywords: Children, Games, Cognition, Neuroinformatic, Neuropedagogy, Metacognition, MCI, Interaction design,
Metacognitive design, Education.
Abstract: Some children require special education due impairment from deafness, blindness, abuse or mental
disabilities. This necessity must be carefully tracked, early and throughout their lives so to provide
assistance at critical life stages. An integrated education can largely benefit from a consistent architecture,
where many specific needs are catered for, while maintaining a fair base of commonalities. This work
describes a meta-architecture which has been employed to develop several neuropedagogical portals. This
architecture offers fine grained neuroinformatic data acquisition and processing, online educational game
development support with neuropsychological profiling. Neuropedagogical education offers a scientific
approach to the development of leaning abilities and the proposed architecture encompasses a guide to
achieve metacognitive design as an important asset in the installation of a rule-forming epistemic mind.
Neuropedagogy is a recent science targeting the
correct development of mental abilities and integral
activation of all brain functionality. Inadequate brain
development can occur whit children suffering from
physiological impairment such as deafness and
blindness, traumatic experiences of abuse, violence,
negligence or even insufficient education.
Whichever are the reasons, the consequences are
usually severe and mostly irreversible, ranging from
cognitive underdevelopment to brain damage from
deactivated cerebral regions. All these risks to child
integrity must be accounted for, early detected and
promptly reacted upon to ensure that appropriated
measures are taken in due time to avoid compromise
of child future.
The cognitive functions are fundamental
structures that serve as foundation for all mental
operations. Thus, they are the essential components
for intellectual activity. These functions enable us to
understand, develop and express information. These
functions emerge from a careful trimming of brain
connections mainly through the process of learning.
The cognitive functions are the framework of
thought are continually being be structured, adapting
and accommodating the different modes of
interaction with the environment. Cognitive
functions are the key to observe, track and nurture
mental development, and every child, especially
from the risk groups should be provided with a
thorough program capable of assess and assist its
mental development.
Mental development is, however, very peculiar
to each individual and a general health program
capable of dealing with all the mental condition
details could incur in heavy investments in
specialized human resources, training and
maintenance. This is the point where
neuroinformatics can be applied to great avail,
delivering widespread cognitive testing, mental
development assistance and assessment of
therapeutic proceedings. Cheap computer stations
can make good use of non specialized local staff,
which with little training can conduct a whole
Emmanoel Tolla de Oliveira C., V. M. Marques C., Weber C., Prata P. and Souza M. (2009).
In Proceedings of the International Conference on Health Informatics, pages 466-473
DOI: 10.5220/0001549704660473
computerized health program. This program can
cover basic demographic and pediatric data,
collecting cognitive testing information, forwarded
to eliciting processes and returning therapeutic
interventions prescribed by specialists.
This work describes the neuroinformatic
architecture proposed jointly by a partnership of the
Laboratory of Cognitive Neuropsychology and
Neuroscience (NEUROLAB-INES) and
Neuroinformatics Laboratory at the Electronic
Computing Center of the Federal University of Rio
de Janeiro (Neurolog-REDE-NCE/UFRJ). This
architecture is being applied to several
neuroinformatic platforms for mental health care
such as TUIA (abused children) NEUROLOG-IBC
(blind) NEUROLOG-INES (deaf) and ESGRIMA
(public education). The platforms are fitted with
demographic data for children and support
neuropsychological testing and gaming for
neuropedagogical intervention. Those specialized
software programs are being developed as several
M.Sc. and B.Sc. works that follow and make use of
the architectural specifications.
The cognitive functions are fundamental
structures forming the base to whole mental
operations. So that, they are essentials components
to intellectual activity. Those functions qualify us to
perceive, to elaborate and express information. The
cognitive functions are the outline of the thought and
are continually structuring, adapting and
accomodating in the different interaction manners
with the environment.
Since cognitive styles are particularly configured
in each person, a wide plethora of learning strategies
should be considered for cater to each individual
requirement. In substitution to this costly approach,
psychological research has brought forward
metacognition as a more efficient solution.
Metacognition is a innate mental process controlling
the acquisition of knowledge and can be fairly
developed across individual particularities of
cognition process. This work proposes a
metacognitive architecture to convey
neuropedagogical interventions and improve the
cognitive development through metacognitive
design guidelines (Kirsh, 2005) and cognitive
modelling (Bandura).
Children usually present learning problems at
schools due to (among other reasons) the low
development of cognitive processes (Barkley, 2002),
(Rotta, 2006). This way, the construction of a
computer tool focused on the development of
cognitive processes (Eyesenck, 2005) is an essential
component in the psychopedagogic process and in
the total development1 of the child.
This paper proposes a software architecture and an
efficient computer environment that helps children
among 7 to 12 years old with problems in
cognition's full development. Neuropedagogical
intervention largely relies on metacognition. This
works study metacognitive design as source of
learning acceleration and rule formation.
The metacognitive design becomes a crucial tool
in the construction of any computer environment
where the goal is to achieve metacognition, because
it is the individual's first contact with the
environment, becoming the essential link for the
conducting thread. A neuropedagogical intervention
based on these design principles, align itself with the
metacognition's goals.
Several educators have already highlighted the
importance of the child game as a help on the
development and child education. The game is a
great resource of development (Vygotsky, 2007),
since in the game universe the child smartens his/her
curiosity, models his/her acting, takes initiatives,
develops self-confidence, language, thoughts and
concentration. Activities with games permit to work
the liberty of choice, in which the child chooses for
living in some situation, works the imagination,
creativity, agility, reasoning, limits and language.
We rarely find a child who is not ready to participate
in a game, being it individual or in group, or in a
physical or mental activity. Nowadays it is defended
in a franc way that games are great stimulators of
mind and suggest a large cognitive commitment
since activate a diversity of sensorial and motor
cortexes (Johnson, 2005). This way, games propel
the construction and reorganization of cognitive
functions. Such interaction allows that the cognitive
functions (Papalia, 2000) be practised with more
intensity, favouring the discovery of new knowledge
ways (Piaget, 1971).
But how to outline the best design to compose
this structure? Which elements we could search to
understand the necessities of this space? Which is
the best computer architecture to sustain such
mechanism? Such questionings lead us to the
proposition of a system design and architecture of
system, as a way of reaching the individual
2.1 CHI and Interaction Design
In the original concept of human machine interface
it was seen as a hardware device and the software
with which the human being and the computer could
communicate each other (Rocha, 2003). In short, the
interface was the link that made the communication
With the maturing o computing, a study area was
formed to produce an efficient model of
communication with the user. This was the starting
point to the area of Computer-Human Interaction
(CHI). This area studies the bridge (interface)
between electronic data and the human mind (Figure
1). Its purpose is to turn this communication as
natural as possible, as if it was a conversation with
another person (Amstel, 2004). The purpose of CHI
area is to create friendly interfaces (or user-friendly).
The CHI is a multidisciplinary area involving the
knowledge of areas such as Computer Science,
Psychology, Human Factors, Linguistic and other
ones. The CHI does not have in its body the goal of
studying the man or the computing, but the
communication between these two entities.
Figure 1: CHI - Computer-Human Interaction.
Going further, we find another approach that
tries to think over the effervescence of technology in
which nowadays we find us inserted, that is the
Interaction Design. Such approach goes beyond the
traditional CHI, because in this context the quest is
for experiences that target to improve and widen the
manner through which people communicate. This
way, interaction designers and usability engineers
get together to develop interactiveness for a new
generation of technologies. Managing such task
requires a set of varied abilities in areas like
Psychology, CHI, Web design, Computer Science,
Information Systems, Marketing, Entertainment and
Business (Figure 2) (Preece, 2005).
Figure 2: Interaction Design, Disciplines.
Interaction design is proposing ergonomic
solutions but not yet reached a point that has a focus
to objectively promote metacognition.
2.2 Metacognitive Design
A good design project tries to use efficient tools in
order to enable the manipulation of the complexity
that any virtual environment requires.
Jonassen (Jonassen, 1998) has already described
that the use of the computer as a cognitive tool,
assumes it as a mean of extracting what they know,
and endeavouring them in a critical thought about
the content worked. The designers help the users
providing tools, support, advertisements, and a
content of high quality. The success of a virtual
environment depends much on how the tools,
contents and support are implemented and visually
presented, not only being enough the simple fact of
being there (Gonçalves, 2005). A good visual design
can facilitate the learning, since it can improve the
metacognition (Kirsh, 2005).
Metacognition is seen much more as a process
that occurs isolatedly in the brain, than an interactive
process. Cognition and metacognition belong to a
continuous, and both are highly interactive (Figure
HEALTHINF 2009 - International Conference on Health Informatics
Figure 3: Cognition's and metacognition's process.
The way the suggestions are structured and the
way the interaction is designed, can make an
important difference in the facility and efficiency of
cognition and metacognition (Kirsh, 2005).
The art of the design is to restrict the visual clues
in each screen to a smaller set, in way that it signs
the next step to the user (Weinman, 1998). The
wisest do not reduce the complex processes to the
same levl of simplicity and intuition, however they
share the same goal. Designers must understand how
to fragment a system that is functionally complex in
a collection of systems functionally simple. It
requires ability and careful planning. The visual and
interaction design are related, because the final
purpose is to control how the user registers the next
step (Kirsh, 2005).
David Kirsh (Kirsh, 2005) defends that a well
designed layout facilitates the metacognition, and
enumerates some arguments, see below:
1 – Metacognition, as a first order cognition, is a
kind of established cognition; the interaction
individual-world can be more or less complex.
2 – The rhetoric of metacognition is about the
internal regulation, but the designers practice focus
on external sources.
3 – Good visual projects are cognitively
efficient. Good designs help managing the student
attention, and training to predict clues semantically
important, such as topic-phrases or useful summaries
since they are visually prominent. Good designs are
good because they are cognitively efficient.
4 – A good visual design establishes a good
work flow. Starting from the point that the user has
multiple tasks to do, he/she must be trained to use
the learned tools, as well as his/her expectations of
acknowledgment through exposition to
environments which are quite established.
5 – A good visual design is related to the
projection of a indicative structure. The clues are
more complex than the visual attractive. Some of
them serve as indicators, permitting the user to know
when he/she is close to his/her purposes.
Because of these principles (metacognitive
design), we have to look for an architecture model
that stands the requirements of the suggested
environment. Such environment needs to assure the
user a view which contains the metacognitive design
paradigms. This construction permits the existence
of a chapter focused on the development of the
access interface to the user. Such chapter does not
interfere on the control of appliance, nor on the flow
of appliance information.
Due to that, the best architecture to this case is a
model that fits three models that possess
independence, and also interact harmonically
between them along the process.
2.3 Proposed Architecture
In this paper we want to show the construction of a
neuroinformatic architecture translated from a
preexistent neuropedagogic model. Such model is
the basis for all the games that compound the
Attention Metacognitive Room, since all of them are
built through the principles of Guided Elaboration,
having as basis the Conducting Thread (Seminério,
1987). The Guided Elaboration is a technique of
metaprocess development of human cognition lead
through a mental flow named Conducting Thread.
This mental flow surrounds every possible
transformations that obey to the principles of
inflexible reasoning. This neuropedagogic process
was developed along twenty years of experimental
research by Professor Franco Seminério (Seminério,
The neuropedagogic modeling is made through
architecture based on the standard of Model View
Control (MVC) (Figure 4). MVC is an architecture
of development which purpose is separate the logic
of application (Model) from the interface of
information access to the user (View), and besides
that, from the application information flow
(Controller) (Gamma, 2005). This architecture
allows that the same logic of business can be
accessed, and even visualized for several interfaces.
The model entity is formed by elements that
represent the application data, that is, the game rules
based on Guided Elaboration e performed by the
Conductive Thread. These two parts that compound
the entity (5 – Game Rules and Conductive Thread),
they self-regulate according to the feedback received
from the player (3), or the Applier (4). This self-
regulation made by the Control entity is essential in
Figure 4: Proposed Architecture.
order to keep a lock on the activity target,
configuring this way the main goal of the
neuropedagogic process. This target is transcribed to
the neuroinformatic model: work the necessities of
each player with the Guided Elaboration following
the principles of the Conductive Thread.
The model is installed to the player/child as
metacognitive games of attention using the
principles of metacognitive design. The View’s goal
is to accomplish the presentation of these data and
capture the user’s events. So, the essential self-
regulation to the process is installed on the Client
through API A, and this way, we can say that all
Cases of Study are not merely lead by the system
functionality, but by the neuropedagogic purpose of
the whole process.
The Control entity makes the connection
between the Model and the View, accomplishing the
treatment of the events, acting on Model, and
modifying the View to represent the situations
required by the neuropedagogical process.
The events captured by the API A are:
1 - Register of the date of Protocol Execution
2 - Time of Reaction (before being initiated the
first section)
3 - Time of Response (after the beginning of the
action up to the response)
4 - Number of correct answers
5 - Number of mistakes
6 - Number of perseverances (repetitive wrong
answers or number of repetitions)
7 - Order of answers execution
8 - Handling order of game's piece
9 - Number of plays (how many times the player
started the game)
10 - Register any kind of waive (observation: the
player may not want to start the game, stop in the
middle of any phase or not pass to the next phase).
Figure 5: client-patient and client-attendant.
2.3.1 Requirements Description
1) Application client-patient - It is divided in
four phases according to the principles of Guided
1.1) First Phase - the child plays.
1.2) Second Phase- the attendant asks the child
to explain how did she/he played
1.3) Third Phase A (manipulating objects) - the
objects are shown exposed in a screen, and the child
has the possibility to move the characters/pranks the
way he/she desires. Child interactions are stored in a
data bank in order to be analysed later.
1.4) Third Phase B – the attendant asks the child
to tell what he/she did on the third phase (previous)
1.5) Fourth Phase (or mediation to the induction
of the rule) – the attendant through mediation will
ask the child to the play game in spoken words.
2) Application client-attendant - the attendant
has the possibility to register:
2.1) Child reactions along the game.
2.2) Record texts of comments according to what
is observing.
2.3) Make stimuli and to do interactions with the
child through the NPC (Non-player character)
picture during the game. All information are stored
in the data bank for a late analysis.
3 and 4) Server application-controls and offers
all services to the applications clients through a
Servlet, and call the components that treat the game
rules and persist on data bank.
The game engine is handled by the Phidias
library (, a
byproduct of this architecture, designed to develop
neuropedagogical games. This library incorporates a
sprite engine with techniques that permit the visual
objects placed in the scenery game being sensitive
HEALTHINF 2009 - International Conference on Health Informatics
Figure 6: Control Listener and Control Monitor.
to the mouse stimuli. The events occurred during the
game, that is, the interactions from the patient with
the game are captured through mouse stimuli inside
the game scenery, and also the actions with sprites.
According to the game phase in which the player is,
the events can be captured or not. The captured ones
are sent to the attendant view in order he/she can
monitor the patient’s moves.
Figure 7: Rules of the game and Database.
Between the server and the applet clients the
communication is made through the HTTP protocol,
using Java Servlet technology.
The architecture of the platform follows the
schemata shown previously on picture 4. They are
three client applicatives: one to the patient who will
play, another to the attendant, and the third one to
the psychologist who will analyse the patient results
The developed platform defines engines that will
be used by the games to be developed. There is one
engine to games with bidimensional images, that is
already prepared to the treatment of events, and one
engine of forms that will be used by the attendant to
follow the patient session. Besides that, the structure
to data collecting and processing is defined in the
architecture, and will be added with a analysis of
each game, to interpret the stored data.
The Phidias's framework is a open-source client-
server platform that is being oriented as thesis M.Sc.
associated with this work. Its development was
based on the architecture described in this work
whose purpose is to promote metacognition.
The Phidias is composed of a set of packages
(Figure 8) with the task of making possible the
conduction of metacognitive interaction.
Figure 8: Diagram Package.
The games developed by Project Kuarup 2008
( have as a goal to
work cognitive function of attention (Figure 9).
These games have been implemented with the
framework Phidias.
Figure 9: Kuarup’s Project games.
The first requirement for development of these
games was to build an interface based on the
principles of metacognitive design (Kirsh, 2005).
The visual project supported its construction in a
number of client packages of Phidias, which
supports the development of an appropriate interface
to metacognition. All the elements that composes the
scenario of the game (parts and board) have been
implemented using the Graphic package. In Phase 1
of the Guided Elaboration all visual elements are
placed on the screen (Figure 10). This is the first
contact with the child's game. The applicator starts
the mediation of the game guided by the principles
of Guided Elaboration. It makes contact with the
child through the NPC figure of fun. The NPC is that
the means the attendant has to target and stimulate
the child.
In Phase 1 of the Guided Elaboration
(Seminério, 1987) the NPC asks the child to start the
Figure 10: Botocudos's game (Kuarup's Project 2008) in
Phase 1 of the Guided Elaboration.
The Graphic package provides the static
elements of the game in order to compose the scene,
which may conflict or not with the sprites. The term
Sprite is well known in the business of game
development. Sprite is a term used to refer to an
element composed of a visual image, which can be
moved by the player across the screen independent
of other elements. The sprites of the games are
implemented by the Sprite client package. Each
element is coupled to a set of sprite events, such as:
identification of the sprite selected, the sprite
dragging time interval, the withdrawal of sprite
handling by the child, the sprite collision with
another static element or other sprites, position
where the player left the sprite in the scenario
(Figure 11), etc. The events identified are captured
and stored in the database t for future analysis. The
Phidias platform is highly customizable and flexible.
This makes possible that new events are mapped for
future neuropedagogical needs.
Figure 11: Moving parts of the board in Phase 1.
There is a possibility that every visual element
that make up the scenario run through some
treatment, so that it is in accordance with the
requirements of metacognitive design. This can be
done through the Filter client package. This package
offers options for treatment of the image, such as:
zoom, brightness, contrast and size.
Throughout the implementation of the
conductive thread the client captures the data and
forwards to the server for storage, receiving an
adequate stimulus in response. That dynamic is
carried through a protocol of communication
between the Client and Server. The Client and
Server communicates through its agents (Java
agent). The Client agent layer capture data to be
stored in a relational database. In turn, the agent in
Server stores this information in the database, does
the analysis and returns the client feedback to the
agent, so that it can interpret and generate some
stimulus. This set of actions is done through the
Control layer, responsible for bidirectional
communication between the client and server agents.
The main goal of this study is to develop and apply
this metacognitive platform all around Brazil, since
it was the result of a long term research on brazilian
children reality.
The building of the Neurolab-INES platform
makes possible the study of attention problems in
deaf children, who before this initiative did not have
adapted tools for such purposes, leaving this specific
population forgotten for this health care.
The advantage of this environment being
constructed in a computer system is making easier
the usage/application of it, offering a certain kind of
cognitive training non existent before to the
population of deaf children.
HEALTHINF 2009 - International Conference on Health Informatics
The development of this architecture was only
possible with the mutual efforts of several students
and teachers of PPGI, Program of Pos-Graduation in
Informatics at NCE-UFRJ, Núcleo de Computação
Eletrônica da Universidade Federal do Rio de
Janeiro, in special those participants in the courses
and the research line of Neuropedagogy and
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