Revolutionary Game

Revolutionary Computer Game

Computer Game Could Improve Sight of Visually Impaired Children

Visually impaired children could benefit from a revolutionary new computer game being developed by a team of neuroscientists and game designers at Lincoln.

There are around 25,000 children in Britain – equating to two children per 1,000 – with a visual impairment of such severity they require specialist education support. The causes of blindness in children are extremely varied, but cerebral visual impairment (damage to areas of the brain associated with vision, rather than damage to the eye itself) is among the most common.

Researchers from the Schools of Psychology and Computer Science are working with staff and children from the WESC Foundation specialist centre for visual impairment education based in Exeter.

The game will use principles derived from existing programmes used with adults, whereby patients have to search for hard-to-find objects on a computer screen (a ‘visual search’ task), but the game will be modified to make the task more stimulating and fun for children and structured to maximise the efficiency of learning.

Timothy Hodgson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, will lead the project. He says: “Previous research has shown that visual search training can lead to significant recovery of sight following damage to visual centres of the brain in adults. 

The problem is these training programmes are just too boring to use with children.

“Our game will be a fun computer-based tool which will benefit children with visual field loss-holes in their vision due to damage to the brain’s visual pathways. 

“This is an exciting research project which brings together expertise from diverse disciplines and puts this knowledge into practice in a way that could make a real difference to the quality of life of visually impaired children.”

Working alongside Professor Hodgson is Dr Conor Linehan, a specialist in computer game development based in the School of Computer Science. And Dr Jonathan Waddington, an experienced computational neuroscientist, who will be based at WESC for the duration of the two-year project. Financial support for the project is provided by the Technology Strategy Board and the UK’s Medical Research Council.

Tracy de Bernhardt Dunkin, Principal and CEO at the WESC Foundation, says:

“This is a tremendously exciting development for WESC and the culmination of five years’ work to introduce learning and research around neurological visual impairment. We are delighted to be employing our first visual neuroscientist, supervised by the University of Lincoln.”

School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln. LN6 7TS