eyes-and-visionneurological-conditionsrehabilitation

Augmented reality brings a new dimension to rehabilitation therapy

Meet MARNIE, a rehabilitation therapy that uses gaming technology to improve hand-eye coordination therapy for visually-impaired stroke patients.

 

Every year one million people in the EU experience a stroke. In the aftermath, many lose full control of their visuomotor pathways (or hand-eye coordination) and almost a third suffer a loss in their field of vision – a condition known as homonymous hemianopia (HH).

HH is caused by trauma to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes information we see. The effect is that people can see only out of one side of each eye.

There is no treatment for HH at present. Patients must learn to navigate their environment through their now-limited vision, which makes rehabilitation vital to their independence.

Experts forecast that the occurrence of strokes will soar 34 per cent by 2035 [1], putting significant pressure on healthcare services and pushing costs way above the current €45 billion estimate.

[1] The Burden of Stroke in Europe report. 2017
Injecting innovation into rehabilitation with MARNIE

MARNIE stands for Merging Augmented Reality and Neurostimulation to Improve Enacting. It is a dynamic rehabilitation therapy that combines gaming technology and neurostimulation. It works by exploiting the brain’s ability to form new neural connections (or neuroplasticity) to stimulate the visuomotor pathways. It uses the visual power of an augmented reality headset in combination with direct current stimulation delivered to the patient’s brain through electrodes placed on their head.

This innovative pairing helps prepare the brain to be better able to perform visuomotor rehabilitation programmes and sets the patient on a pathway to recovery.

Sparking a revolution in rehabilitation therapy

MARNIE’s unique therapy helps post-stroke patients improve more quickly and independently. This in turn eases pressures on medical health professionals in support roles and can contribute to reducing the social costs of supporting people with visuomotor deficiencies.

MARNIE is just the beginning of a new dimension in rehabilitation therapy. This cost-effective technology has the potential to transform rehabilitation across many other conditions. Meanwhile, the project provides a frame of reference for future research in visuomotor coordination, providing a new perspective on this overlooked condition.

Combining expertise from leading research centres

This Innovation project to advance visuomotor therapy in people with HH was led by Switzerland’s Fondation Asile des Aveugles – an EIT Health partner and leading research and innovation centre in visual rehabilitation.

Silvio IONTA
| Professor | Fondation Asile des aveugles
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