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Computer Technique Could Help Partially-Sighted See Better
Nichola Burlison: “I could do more
than I thought after the training";
© Durham University
Thousands of partially-sighted people could gain greater independence from a simple, cheap and accessible training course which could eventually be delivered from their mobile phones or hand-held games consoles, according to a new study.
The new research has found that a computer-based technique developed and assessed by Durham University improved partially-sighted people’s ability to ‘see’ better. It may eventually improve and broaden the portfolio of rehabilitation techniques for partially-sighted patients.
The study tested the technique on patients who suffer from a condition affecting their sight called hemianopia. Hemianopia affects over 4,000 people in the UK each year. Sufferers lose half of their visual field due to stroke or other brain injury. They are heavily dependent on others as they struggle with balance, walking, finding things around the house, and they are not normally able to drive.
The study found that patients became faster and more accurate at detecting objects, such as coloured dots or numbers, on a computer screen.
The Durham study compared two types of rehabilitation techniques – one focused on exploration and the other on attention. Neither training option is currently available on the NHS although alternative training programmes can be bought privately.
The research, which tested 46 patients, found that the basic attention training without the need for patients to move their eyes extensively was for the most part as effective at rehabilitation as the more specialised exploration technique.
The researchers believe the test helped patients to compensate for their lost vision by exploring their ‘blind field’ more, which is the part of the visual field affected by the brain damage. Further research is needed to pinpoint exactly why the technique helps patients to ‘see’ better but the scientists believe it is likely due to improved attention, concentration and awareness of their visual problems.
The scientists say patients may even be able to see similar improvements in their vision by playing mainstream computer games, particularly those whereby you need to scan virtual environments with your eyes.
Nichola Burlison has hemianopia, because she suffered severe brain damage after a car accident eight years ago. She also took part in the research: “The training has made a big difference to me. I am more comfortable with reading and I don’t miss words at the start of sentences anymore. I also move my eyes around, both to the left and right, because I am more aware that I can do that.”
REHACARE.de; Source: Durham University
- More about the Durham University at www.durham.ac.uk
( Source: REHACARE.de )