Computer game could improve sight of visually impaired children

Computer game could improve sight of visually impaired children

(Medical Xpress)—Visually impaired children could benefit from a revolutionary new computer game being developed by a team of neuroscientists and game designers.

Academics from the University of Lincoln, UK, are working with WESC, one of the UK's most respected specialist schools for visually impaired children, to create and evaluate a new 'visual search rehabilitation game'.

There are around 25,000 children in Britain - equating to two children per 1,000 - with a of such severity they require specialist education support. The causes of blindness in children are extremely varied, but cerebral visual impairment (damage to areas of the brain associated with vision, rather than damage to the eye itself) is among the most common.

Researchers from Lincoln's School of Psychology and School of Computer Science will work with staff and children from WESC - the specialist centre for visual impairment. The school and college, based in Exeter, has been providing education and care for young people with visual impairment since 1838 and is a designated High Performing Specialist School.

Together they have been awarded a grant worth around £130,000 for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) which will apply the very latest research in visual neuroscience to the rehabilitation of childhood cerebral visual impairment and special education.

Timothy Hodgson, Professor of in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, will lead the project.

He said: "Previous research has shown that visual search training can lead to significant recovery of sight following damage to visual centres of the brain in adults. The problem is these training programmes are just too boring to use with children.
"Our game will be a fun computer based tool which will benefit children with visual field loss - holes in their vision due to damage to the brain's visual pathways.
"This is an exciting research project which brings together expertise from diverse disciplines and puts this knowledge into practice in a way that could make a real difference to the quality of life of children.
"At the same time, we also expect the game will be suitable for rehabilitation of adults who have suffered sight loss due to stroke."

The game will use principles derived from existing programmes used in adults with visual field loss, whereby patients have to search for hard-to-find objects on a computer screen (a '' task), but the game will be modified to make the task more stimulating and fun for and structured to maximise the efficiency of learning.

Working alongside Professor Hodgson on the KTP will be Dr Conor Linehan, a specialist in development based in Lincoln's School of Computer Science. They will oversee the work of KTP Associate Jonathan Waddington, an experienced computational neuroscientist, who will be based at WESC for the duration of the two-year project. Financial support for the project is provided by the Technology Strategy Board and the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC).

Tracy de Bernhardt Dunkin, Principal and CEO at the WESC Foundation, said: "This is a tremendously exciting development for WESC and the culmination of five years' work to introduce learning and research around neurological visual impairment. We are delighted to be employing our first visual neuroscientist, supervised by University of Lincoln. We plan to expand our research and development department further over the coming years to reflect our interest in this highly specialist area of work which is so relevant to many young people with visual impairment across the UK as a whole."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Video games shown to improve vision

Mar 15, 2007

According to a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored ...

Prevalence of visual impairment in US increases

Dec 11, 2012

The prevalence of nonrefractive visual impairment (not due to need for glasses) in the U.S. has increased significantly in recent years, which may be partly related to a higher prevalence of diabetes, an associated risk factor, ...

Recommended for you

Nanopatch to help WHO battle polio

2 hours ago

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) battle against polio has a new weapon after joining forces with Vaxxas, the biotechnology company responsible for developing revolutionary vaccine delivery method the Nanopatch.

Obama's Ebola response: Is it enough and in time?

6 hours ago

President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa could threaten security around the world, and he ordered 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the region in emergency aid muscle ...

First domestic case of chikungunya in Brazil

6 hours ago

Brazil's authorities on Tuesday reported the first domestically contracted cases of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, prompting the government to announce it was stepping up attempts to control the disease.

Australia promises $6.4 million to fight Ebola

7 hours ago

Australia announced on Wednesday it will immediately provide an additional 7 million Australian dollars ($6.4 million) to help the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

User comments