KTP Grant Success – Improving functional vision in children through a visual search computer game

We have been awarded a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grant worth approximately £130K to support an exciting project which aims to apply visual neuroscience to the rehabilitation of childhood cerebral visual impairment and special education. The work is a collaboration between the University of Lincoln, Schoolof Psychologyand the West of England School and College for young people with little or no sight (WESC) (www.westengland.ac.uk). The grant will employ an experienced neuroscience / psychology researcher at WESC inExeter who will develop and evaluate a visual search rehabilitation computer game for use in children with partial visual loss. Dr Conor Linehan from the Lincoln Social Computing Research Centre (an expert in educational games) will also play a leading role in the project (http://staff.lincoln.ac.uk/clinehan).

WESC approached us as they realised that many of the children and young people they work with have problems which are due to damage to the brains visual centres rather than disorders of the eye itself. The project will also help WESC build expertise and understanding of the role of the brain in visual perception and its disorders. Previous research has demonstrated that visual search training can lead to significant recovery of vision following damage to visual regions of the brain in adults, but adult training programmes are simply to boring to use with children. At the same time, we expect that implementing visual search training as a game could also lead to improvements to provision of search training to adults with hemianopia (visual loss following stroke).

KTPs are a national initiative which supports partnerships between business and universities enabling Associates to work on challenging, high profile projects (www.ktponline.org.uk). Financial support for the KTP project with WESC is provided by the Technology Strategy Board with offer of a part contribution from the Medical Research Council.

Please let me know if you are interested in finding out more about this project. If you think you have a suitable background and are interested in applying for the position please see the job and application procedure here: http://jobs.lincoln.ac.uk/vacancy.aspx?ref=EL1076A

See also previous post: https://hodgson.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2012/05/28/visual-neuroscience-and-specialist-education/

Visual Neuroscience and Specialist Education

We have been invited to submit a full version of our Knowledge Transfer Partnership proposal with the West of England School and College for Young People with Little or No Sight (http://www.westengland.ac.uk/).

The project aims to bring knowledge of visual neuroscience into specialist visual impairment education, where a large number of children have visual problems that are of a neurological origin (rather than arising from disorders of the eye). This innovative partnership with the University of Lincoln School of Psychology and School of Computer Science will also develop a visual rehabilitation “game”: A fun computer based tool which will benefit children with visual field loss (i.e. “holes” in their vision due to damage to the brains visual pathways). The game will use principles derived from existing programmes used in adults with visual field loss, in which patients have to search for difficult to find objects on a computer screen (a so-called “visual search” task), but modified to make them more interesting and fun for children and to maximise the efficiency of learning.

I am personally excited about the prospect of this project coming to fruition and it represents a great opportunity to generat impact from knowledge derived from neuroscience and psychology in order to put it into practice in specialist education.

References and relevant links

Pambakian ALM, Mannan SK, Hodgson TL & Kennard C (2004) Saccadic visual search training: a treatment for patients with homonymous hemianopia Journal Of Neurology Neurosurgery And Psychiatry  75(10): 1443-1448.

http://hemianopia.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/another-visual-search-saccade-training.html

Understanding and Improving Functional Vision in Specialist Education

On 25th April I will be speaking at the West of England School and College (WESC) conference on understanding and improving functional vision. I will be giving an overview of my research on the brain systems underlying eye movement control and how they are affected in cases of neurological damage entitled Eye movements, visual attention and the brain. http://www.westengland.ac.uk/

WESC is a visual impairment specialist school and further education provider in Exeter with an outstanding reputation for excellence and innovation. We are developing an exciting new collaboration to embed visual neuroscience expertise and knowledge in specialist education where to date the emphasis has been upon the role of the eye itself in vision rather than the brain.