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Deficits in visuospatial attention, known as neglect, are common following brain injury, but underdiagnosed and poorly treated, resulting in long-term cognitive disability. In clinical settings, neglect is often assessed using simple pen-and-paper tests. While convenient, these cannot characterise the full spectrum of neglect. This protocol reports a research programme that compares traditional neglect assessments with a novel virtual reality attention assessment platform: The Attention Atlas (AA).
The AA was codesigned by researchers and clinicians to meet the clinical need for improved neglect assessment. The AA uses a visual search paradigm to map the attended space in three dimensions and seeks to identify the optimal parameters that best distinguish neglect from non-neglect, and the spectrum of neglect, by providing near-time feedback to clinicians on system-level behavioural performance. A series of experiments will address procedural, scientific, patient, and clinical feasibility domains.
Analyses focuses on descriptive measures of reaction time, accuracy data for target localisation, and histogram-based raycast attentional mapping analysis; which measures the individual’s orientation in space, and inter- and intra-individual variation of visuospatial attention. We will compare neglect and control data using parametric between-subjects analyses. We present example individual-level results produced in near-time during visual search.
The development and validation of the AA is part of a new generation of translational neuroscience that exploits the latest advances in technology and brain science, including technology repurposed from the consumer gaming market. This approach to rehabilitation has the potential for highly accurate, highly engaging, personalised care.