Neurogaming

It’s been a while since I was last able to update the site, and that’s not because there haven’t been interesting things to discuss but because there have just been too many interesting things going on to have time to discuss them. Over the last two months we have presented¬†our early research findings in both Melbourne (Australia) and San Francisco (USA), and visited the Veterans Affairs’ Western Blind Rehabilitation Centre in Palo Alto (USA) to discuss their rehabilitation program for veterans with acquired brain injury. In between those visits we hosted our own international conference at the WESC Foundation with delegates arriving from all over Europe and the US, which was a great success. Conor Linehan, one of our collaborating academics has also presented recently in Toronto (Canada) at the ACM CHI Conference on human factors in computing systems. All in all, it’s been a busy couple of months. I now have a bit of breathing space while we make preparations for research participant recruitment, so I can finally sit down and add a post to our blog. I thought I’d talk a little bit about Neurogaming.

Earlier this month, I attended a conference and expo dedicated to Neurogaming. When I first booked the tickets to the conference I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, except that there were going to be people there from academia, industry and the commercial sector – and that there was going to be at least one panel talking about developing computer games for neurorehabilitation. As it turns out the conference covered a range of topics from virtual and augmented reality to neurofeedback and biosensors to games for education, wellness and therapy.

It was very interesting to explore the expo and witness the up-and-coming Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in action alongside other cutting edge technology such as head, body and arm trackers that were certainly capable of simulating physical presence in the virtual reality games that I had a chance to play. Also of interest were the number of startup companies involved in neurofeedback and neurocontrol using EEG headbands, which seem to have reached a price point where they are now mass marketable. The headbands have been adapted from the rather bulky (and unfashionable) caps that you might find in a psychology lab to smaller wireless sensor arrays that can be worn easily while out about. The headbands I saw at the conference were most often used to pick up prefrontal cortex activity, which can give a measure of “attention” as a form of neurofeedback to those practicing mindfulness training or even cognitive behavioural therapy for attention deficit disorders.

The field is still relatively new so it will be interesting to see how things progress, but if any of you are interested you can watch the panel discussions that were recorded during the conference here.

 

Vision 2014 and the WESC Foundation international conference

This April I’ll be presenting at two separate conferences: Vision 2014 and the WESC Foundation’s annual international conference.

Vision2014_logoVision 2014 is the 11th International Conference on Low Vision, which occurs once every three years and this year will take place in Melbourne, Australia. The themes of the conference are Advancing research, upgrading practice, and improving participation. I will be giving a rapid fire oral presentation about our current research project: “A computer game designed to improve sight for children with visual field loss.” as well as presenting a research poster at the exhibition.

The draft program for the Vision 2014 conference looks particularly promising with an entire day set aside for neurological vision impairment, and other symposia include updates on low vision technology, bionic implants and rehabilitation delivery.

The WESC international conference will be taking place onsite at Exeter, UK on the 30th April and 1st May with a followup day on the 2nd May to discuss a specific neurological visual impairment: Batten disease, also known as neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. The first day will have talks from Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy on the CVI Range (which is an approach to assessment and intervention for children with neurological vision impairment) as well as a presentation on the Children & Families bill from Claire Dorer of NASS. On the second day we have presentations on the implications of visual impairment after stroke from Dr. Fiona Rowe of the University of Liverpool, and a presentation from Prof. Rob Scott on developments with the Brainport. If you are interested in finding out more details about this conference and would be interested in attending please feel free to contact WESC using the email address: kgaulton@wescfoundation.ac.uk.

Hopefully I will see some of you there.

Raising awareness for nystagmus

Nystagmus is the word we use to describe an involuntary oscillation of the eyes. While it can be a normal physiological response to visual and vestibular sensations, there are unfortunate pathological variations which cause visual impairment. It is a relatively common condition affecting one in every two to three thousand people in the UK, and researchers are very interested in trying to determine the causes of pathological nystagmus and to understand how it might be effectively treated.

Nystagmus network is a charity dedicated to improving patient information, support and scientific research into nystagmus. I was recently at their 3rd international nystagmus research workshop to present some research findings from an investigation into physiological nystagmus. The workshop was particularly interesting because of the scope of different scientific disciplines represented. The programme started on the first day with presentations on mathematical and animal models of nystagmus. On the second day we discussed the results of retinal imaging studies, the genetics of nystagmus, and the impact of living with nystagmus on the quality of life of patients. Presentations on the final day were focused on tentative suggestions for both surgical and medical treatments.

wobblywed2013Nystagmus Network are currently raising awareness of nystagmus in the run-up to their first International Nystagmus Awareness Day on November 6th.¬†The awareness day has been labelled “Wobbly Wednesday” as nystagmus is often referred to as “wobbly eyes”. If you have been affected by nystagmus or know anyone who has you might wish to organise an event for the day, and you can register for a supporters pack by emailing info@nystagmusnet.org. Alternatively there is a Facebook group where supporters can interact with each other.

“Remember, remember, the 6th of November”.