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 VR headset spots concussion in minutes

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Date posted: 29/04/2005

You have been hit on the head, but are you concussed? There have always been two ways to check: A second blow to the head, could be fatal if you are concussed, and whilst an obvious diagnosis, is hardly acceptable. The second way, takes hours of testing by professionals. In an emergency, when it is a matter of life or death, you may not have the luxury of waiting several hours.

A VR system called DETECT now being developed by biomedical engineer Michelle LaPlaca at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, and David Wright, assistant director of the Emergency Medicine Research Centre at nearby Emory University could change all that.

DETECT (Display Enhanced TEsting for Concussion and mild Traumatic brain injury) is able to detect signs of brain injury or dementia within minutes. It requires no formal training by the operator, and Non-medical personnel can utilise it to gauge the extent of brain damage, whilst the system works quite happily in noisy emergency rooms, whilst being portable enough to be used on the battlefield or at the side of a sports field.

The person who has suffered the blow wears a VR headset, plus headphones, and is given a device similar to a video game controller to operate. The system puts the wearer through an array of neuropsychological tests designed to pick up reduced reaction times and deficits in working memory, conditions that would indicate injuries to different parts of the brain.

The wearer sees groups of words, flashing white squares that change positions, and a series of shapes with different colours and patterns. At the same time, instructions are flashed up on the VR display while verbal commands are given through the headphones. The wearer responds to the commands by pressing one of two buttons on the controller.

By measuring reactions times in a battery of tests, the system is designed to detect even mild cognitive deficits associated with concussion or early dementia. DETECT completes its tests in about 7 minutes. Conventional cognitive tests require hours of testing and trained personnel to administer them, and score and interpret the results.

"Commercially available computer tasks designed to evaluate the cognitive effects of concussion are limited in their ability to predict 'real-world' performance," says John Woodard, a psychologist at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Illinois. "DETECT represents a new generation of assessment technology for evaluating the effects of brain injury."

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com



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