Training and maintaining visual perception in older adults
to promote quality of life and prolong independence
Vision loss has a significant impact on a person’s ability to engage with the world, something that becomes increasingly difficult as we age. Seniors deal with considerable visual demands (driving, communicating, reading) and reduced vision affects their quality of life, ability to enjoy activities, and age-in-place. Another challenge that seniors are faced with is declining cognitive function as they age.
Hearing loss has already been identified as a top modifiable risk factor for dementia and there is increasing evidence to suggest an association between visual and cognitive impairments. Therefore maintaining healthy vision in older adults may also be an important strategy for reducing the risk of dementia.
We are collaborating with Re:LAB, to test Re:Garde is the first low-cost, personalized, remotely-managed program that can improve visual perception. The main Virtual Reality (VR) application, Re:Vision, has been previously validated in clinical trials at the DJK Eye Institute at Toronto Western Hospital. Our clinical studies showed feasibility and beneficial effects of the Re:Garde-system in small groups of older-adult patients with low vision. Now dozens of seniors will have the opportunity to train and improve their vision by using the Re:Garde program in a community setting. Two additional vision tests (Re:ViewD and Re:ShapeD) have been included in the Re:Garde suite to provide further opportunity for identifying visual decline early on so that individuals may take corrective action as soon as possible. Maintaining good vision in older adults will in turn lead to prolonged independence and possibly reduce the risk of age-related cognitive declines such as dementia.
This page provides instructions, guidance and downloadable resources for the research teams involved in Re:GARDE.
The intervention is designed to train users to follow objects in 3D-space while introducing degrees of distractions. In the virtual environment, patients track a moving target ball (temporarily highlighted) among a set of distractors. After 20 seconds of motion they are prompted to identify the originally highlighted ball. This activity will be repeated throughout the stimulation, with the software automatically adjusting the speed of the balls based on previous performance.
Watch a demo of the Re:Vision application below. It begins with a quick 5-item questionnaire (VRISE) to assess potential symptoms related to simulator sickness, performs two instances of the visual training with different backgrounds, and ends with a second instance of VRISE. A typical training session would include 3 blocks of stimulations, each with 15 instances of tracking tasks.
Re:ViewD is intended as a VR version of the Useful Field of View (UFoV) assessment which measures visual processing speed, sustained visual attention, and divided visual attention. UFoV has shown to be a good predictor of driving risk or problems with functional performance (e.g., mobility, balance) possibly linked to cognitive impairments. The ability for eye- and head-tracking in the VR headset can provide further insight into visual performance that is not available when administering the test using a personal computer.
Re:ShapeD is intended as a VR version of the Motor-Free Visual Perception Test (MVPT) which evaluates visual perception - in particular discrimination, figure-ground, visual memory, spatial relationships, and visual closure.
VR Headset & Controllers
Learn how to use the VR equipment here.