Computational Neuroscientist Develops Computer Game to Aid Visually Impaired


Researchers will begin testing a new computer game that they hope could hold the key to helping visually impaired children lead independent lives. Developed by a team of neuroscientists and video game designers, the Eyelander game features exploding volcanoes, a travelling avatar and animated landscapes.

The idea is to improve the functional vision of children who have sight issues due to a brain injury rather than damage to the eye itself. Functional vision is used to perform everyday tasks such as safely crossing the road or finding a book on a bookshelf, but when the visual pathways between the brain and the eyes become damaged, the messages aren’t correctly relayed and the visual field becomes reduced.

There are around 25,000 blind and partially-sited children in the United Kingdom — equating to two children per 1,000. The causes of blindness in children are varied, but cerebral visual impairment (damage to areas of the brain associated with vision) is among the most common.

Computational neuroscientist Jonathan Waddington is conducting the trials of Eyelander at the WESC Foundation, one of the UK’s leading specialist schools for visually impaired children, overseen by Timothy Hodgson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln and Dr. Conor Linehan, a specialist in computer game development based in Lincoln’s School of Computer Science.

Waddington said: “What we are aiming to do is improve the patient’s functional vision, which is needed to perform tasks of independent living. We are tapping into the brain’s innate ability to adapt (also known as neuroplasticity), and because substantial changes in vision are possible even into adulthood, this could yield real results.

“The game draws on existing training programs, which only offer black and white, two-dimensional shapes, and no interaction. The key to making the game successful is that we have we have combined our knowledge of neuroscience and psychology with expertise in game development so it is both effective and engaging.

“Clinical trials will get under way … to evaluate whether the software could become a valuable new tool for the treatment of children and young adults with visual impairments.”

Curated from Computational Neuroscientist Develops Computer Game to Aid Visually Impaired