ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research

Development and evaluation of an adaptive neglect therapy tool with visual, auditive and tactile modalities using virtual reality technology

Project Members: Samuel Knobel, Brigitte Kaufmann, Dario Cazzoli, Thomas Nyffeler, René M Muri, Tobias Nef
Project Start: 01.02.2019

Every year in  Switzerland,  around  16’000  people suffer from stroke.  For approximately  65%,  the neurological impairments diminish or even disappear, whereas the other 35% remain severely impaired and in need of care for the rest of their life. Unilateral spatial neglect is an attention disorder frequently occurring after a right-hemispheric stroke. Neglect results in a reduction in quality of life and performance in activities of daily living.

Today, the most frequently used therapeutic strategies are prism adaptation, optokinetic stimulation, or non-invasive brain stimulation like transcranial magnetic stimulation  (TMS)  or transcranial direct current stimulation  (tDCS). The common feature of those different approaches is the intention to shift the patient’s attention to the neglected side.

With current technical improvements in virtual reality (VR) technology has been identified as a new promising method to achieve the "attentional shift" to the neglected body-side. Therefore training in VR has become a promising new approach for the assessment and the rehabilitation of neglect.

In the envisioned setup, the patient operates in a virtual environment were his avatar interacts with virtual objects. This bidirectional interaction involves motor (e.g. arm/hand movement), sensory (e.g. visual, audio and tactile) and cognitive (e.g. executive function) functions. In this virtual environment, the patient has to solve a task through his avatar, for example, to interpret visual, audio and tactile information to find objects in the non-neglected space and move them into the neglected space. Such a VR based tool can be used to diagnose and quantify USN or to train the "attentional shift" with the goal to achieve a short and long-term reduction of USN.

Keywords: Virtual Reality, Audio Kinetic Stimulation, Multimodal Stimulation, Stroke, Neglect

Publications: 

Knobel, Samuel; Kaufmann, Brigitte C; Gerber, Stephan M; Cazzoli, Dario; Müri, René M; Nyffeler, Thomas, Nef, Tobias (2020). Immersive 3D Virtual Reality Cancellation Task for Visual Neglect Assessment: A Pilot Study. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 14, 180. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00180