Kessler Basis awarded federal grant to s

Image: dr Peii Chen of the Kessler Foundation is researching new treatments for visual neglect, which complicates recovery after a traumatic brain injury.
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Photo credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ – January 13, 2022 – Peii (Peggy) Chen, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at the Kessler Foundation’s Center for Stroke Rehabilitation Research, has the US Department of Defense, US Army Medical Research & Development Command, Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), Vision Research Program. This Investigator-Initiated Research Award is funding a two-year study entitled “A Virtual Reality (VR) Exercise for Restoring Functional Vision after Head Trauma.”

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a significant impact on vision and lead to impaired visual attention (also known as visual neglect) even in the absence of an eye injury. Individuals with visual neglect have lost the ability to explore the full extent of their surroundings. They have difficulty reading, locating personal items, finding their way to destinations, and many other daily activities. Visual neglect is caused by disrupted neural networks and has been extensively studied in stroke but remains largely unexplored in other types of brain injury.

Noting the lack of evidence-based treatments for visual neglect after TBI, Dr. Chen: “Our study will fill this knowledge gap by examining visual neglect in TBI and developing a new treatment method.”

The project is at the forefront of neurorehabilitation research using immersive virtual reality (VR) technology developed with the services of Virtualware, an award-winning VR technology company based in Spain. The treatment to be developed is an intensive, gamified rehabilitation program that uses a combination of VR and eye-tracking technologies to implement an oculomotor exercise protocol based on smooth eye tracking.

The gentle eye-tracking exercise is an evidence-based treatment that improves patients’ ability to move their eyes toward the neglected side of the room and voluntarily pay attention to the entire work area relevant to a specific task. This ability is fundamental to the spatial explorations required in learning, reading, and wayfinding. Traditionally, gentle eye-tracking exercise to treat visual neglect requires intense and close monitoring by therapists. VR technology combined with eye tracking can reduce the burden on the therapist. Research participants experience a VR session with smooth eye-tracking exercises and share their feedback. The study will demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of applying new technologies to rehabilitative treatment activities.

Research participants will also undergo functional and structural neuroimaging studies of the brain. Study results will advance the understanding of spatial processing and visual perception as functions of brain connectivity and advance the development of treatments that target head trauma-related visual impairment.

“The knowledge gained from this clinical study will advance patient care by identifying the neural basis of visual neglect due to TBI at rest and during smooth tracking eye exercises,” said Dr. Chen. “Achieving our goals will result in improved visual health and quality of life for civilians as well as active-duty military personnel and veterans with trauma-related visual impairments.”

Funding: Department of Defense, United States Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), Vision Research Program under award # W81XWH-21-1-0746. For more information, see: https://cdmrp.army.mil/vrp/default.

For information on ongoing Kessler Foundation rehabilitation research studies, please contact: ResearchStudies@KesslerFoundation.org.

About the Kessler Foundation

The Kessler Foundation, a major disability nonprofit, is a global leader in rehabilitation research aimed at improving cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities resulting from disease and injury of the brain and spinal cord. The Kessler Foundation is a national leader in funding innovative programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Visit KesslerFoundation.org for more information.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.

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Title: dr Peii Chen, senior research scientist at the Kessler Foundation’s Center for Stroke Rehabilitation Research

Subtitle: dr Peii Chen of the Kessler Foundation is researching new treatments for visual neglect, which complicates recovery after a traumatic brain injury.

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#KesslerFoundation Receives @DeptofDefense @CDMRP Grant to Investigate #virtualreality for #TBI-Related Visual Neglect @PeiiChenPeggy @virtualware #military #veterans #RehabResearch

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