Kessler News

Kessler Foundation Receives Major Federal Grant to Test Virtual Reality in Balance Dysfunction after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Kessler Institute is part of a collaborative study that will compare VR-based balance treatment with traditional treatment methods for rehabilitating balance dysfunction after TBI

West Orange, N.J. (November 20, 2014) -- Kessler Foundation is the recipient of a four-year grant for nearly $3 million from the Defense Medical Research and Development Program (DMRDP) Department of Defense (DOD) titled, “Improving Balance in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Using a Low-Cost Customized Virtual Reality Technology”. Principal investigators (PI) of the Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program (CRMRP) Neurosensory Research Award (W81XWH-14-2-0150) are research scientists Karen Nolan, PhD, and Denise Krch, PhD.

Three sites are collaborating with the Foundation on the study: Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (Co-Investigators: Neil Jasey, MD, Director of Brain Injury Rehabilitation; and Irene Ward, PT, DPT, NCS); Brain Injury Clinical Research Coordinator; National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) Satellite Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Co-Investigator: Maulik P. Purohit, MD, MPH); and Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California (Co-Investigators: Rachel Proffitt, OTD, OTR/L and Albert “Skip” Rizzo, PhD). An additional recruitment site is the VA New Jersey Health Care System-East Orange Campus (Consultant: Glenn Wylie, DPhil).

The sequelae of TBI, a major health concern for U.S. military and civilian populations, include balance problems, which affect approximately 65% of the TBI population. Even minor impairments can adversely affect balance performance, causing disability. Cognitive issues in this population often complicate the treatment of balance problems.

Because available treatments are limited in their ability to replicate real world situations, this study explores the application of virtual reality (VR) technology, which enables the creation of a virtual world through which users engage in treatment exercises. Mystic Isle, a VR-based balance treatment, utilizes the Microsoft Kinect sensor connected to a PC. Specially developed software tracks ‘players’ in 3D space as they engage in a range of physical and cognitive activities and tasks that are customizable to individual levels of ability. The scientists plan to evaluate whether Mystic Isle is more effective than existing treatments in improving balance and quality of life. Because carrying out two tasks at the same time (i.e., dual task), is a skill critical in the real world, scientists will also look at the relative effectiveness of dual-task (balance and cognitive) VR training to improve balance.

“Mystic Isle is a low-cost therapy option that can be readily adapted to inpatient, outpatient and home-based rehabilitation, making it a valuable adjunct to conventional therapy,” said John DeLuca, PhD, senior VP of Research & Training at Kessler Foundation. “This project may establish Mystic Isle as the basis for providing tele-rehabilitation via remote supervision, which would bring necessary services to service members, veterans and civilians in distant locations.”


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