Using Virtual Reality Games to Help with Vision Disorder
Tara Alvarez, Ph.D., Director & Founder of the Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory & Professor of Biomedical Engineering at NJIT, explains how she is using virtual reality games to help remediate symptoms of convergence insufficiency, a visual problem that can affect a child’s ability to see, read and work at close distances.
"Welcome back. With all the talk today about childhood concussions, one thing we don't hear much about, is CI, or Convergence Insufficiency. Well, Dr. Tara Alvarez is using virtual reality to combat this condition. She's the Director and Founder of the Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory, and a professor of biomedical engineering at NJIT. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. What is C.I.? So Convergence Insufficiency is a binocular, eye coordination problem. So explain what that means. So, in essence, what happens is... well, people don't complain about being able to move their eyes. You can imagine it's a really critical skill for reading. So if my hands are my eyes, you want to be able to make sure they're well coordinated with each other. And this particular movement actually requires a lot of brain real estate. So, if you've had a concussion, approximately 50% of people that have a concussion where the symptoms are not remediated on their own, develop Convergence Insufficiency. The good news is it is treatable with rehabilitation, however, a lot of people don't know about it, and doctors right now are becoming more aware of this particular problem. Is there a difference in the way this plays out for children versus adults? In what sense? In terms of the the C.I. awareness, or the impact of the C.I. on children versus adults? So, it is true that the general public is not very well aware of this condition. The challenges for children... this is their only visual environment that they know. So, they don't know that it's not supposed to hurt when they're reading. Many people do go to their eye doctors and they'll complain about vision symptoms, which is: double, blurry vision, eye stress and strain, headaches... They will get checked for acuity, which is eyeglasses, but many eye doctors don't do a thorough binocular exam. So, it is prevalent in the adult population as well. When you've had a concussion, sometimes these symptoms are much more evident, because people who would be avid readers before the accident all of a sudden now can't read comfortably for more than a few minutes. So what are you doing... what is the device that you've created to help deal with this issue? So, I have two kids, and I know full well how easy it is to get kids to play video games. In my field, they've done a lot of different testings of office-based vision therapy, which is the way you can remediate these symptoms, and home based therapy, and they're using devices such as iPads, they're using some..."