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Kessler Foundation and USC collaborate on clinical virtual reality for disability research

West Orange, NJ. January 10, 2012. Kessler Foundation and the University of Southern California (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies will collaborate on clinical research projects applying virtual reality technology to cognitive and motor rehabilitation research. The goal, according to USC's Albert Rizzo, PhD of the Institute's Medical Virtual Reality research group, is to conduct research to develop the evidence base to support the future of home-based rehabilitation that is effective, convenient and affordable.

Kessler Foundation and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) are an ideal match said Kessler Foundation's vice president for research John DeLuca, PhD. "Both have clinical and technical expertise in virtual reality technology and a strong research ethic. This collaboration will enable us to assess patients in controllable interactive virtual environments and test rehabilitation interventions in settings that reflect the challenges of everyday life. Understanding the impact of disability on everyday life will help us devise ways to overcome those challenges."

USC-ICT has built on sophisticated, yet low-cost gaming technologies to develop interactive systems for clinical applications, including a program called Virtual Iraq/Virtual Afghanistan that shows promise for ameliorating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. USC is also home to a NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center that focuses on using VR to address the challenges of aging and disability. Kessler Foundation's rehabilitation research focuses on the patient populations likely to benefit from virtual reality rehabilitationbrain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Foundation researchers have developed a virtual reality driving simulator to help people with disabilities relearn driving skills. The Foundation receives NIDRR funding for model systems in both brain and spinal cord injury.

On a recent visit to Kessler Foundation, Dr. Rizzo and his group's lead VR designer Sebastian Koenig, PhD, installed two types of virtual reality software2011 Virtual Office software for cognitive research in TBI and MS ( and Microsoft Kinect-based software (the ICT-developed Flexible Action and Articulated Skelton Toolkit (FAAST)) for upper extremity and balance impairment research and clinical intervention in SCI, TBI and stroke. "Clinical studies using virtual reality are producing results that will reshape the future of inpatient, outpatient and home-based medical rehabilitation," predicted Dr. Rizzo. "When managed by skilled clinicians, the accessibility and flexibility offered by engaging game-based therapies will likely improve the quality of life for people with a variety of disabilities."


Contact: Carolann Murphy
Kessler Foundation

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