Virtual Reality-Based Assessment of Neglect

Senior researchers:
Docent Marja Hietanen (Helsinki University Hospital)
Docent Juha Salmitaival (Aalto University)

Post-graduate students:
M.A. (psychology), specialized in neuropsychology Jenni Uimonen (University of Helsinki)


Neglect is a common symptom after stroke. It is characterized by a failure to orient, report, or respond to stimuli located on the opposite side of the brain lesion. Its adverse impact on daily functioning and recovery from stroke is well established. Paper-and-pencil tests are traditionally used to assess the presence of neglect symptoms in a clinical setting, even though a large body of research has shown that their sensitivity is variable and too imprecise to detect for example subtle or chronic forms of neglect. Virtual reality (VR) technology offers various opportunities to improve assessment of neglect symptoms in different time points after stroke. Using VR technology in neuropsychological evaluation offers several benefits, but most importantly it can be used to display dynamic types of stimuli in a 3D environment in a controlled manner which is more representative of the real world. Moreover, it offers highly accurate measures (e.g., eye movements and sensor data) to characterize patient’s defects with high precision in an experimentally controlled setting that is not possible using conventional methods.

The aim of this project is to develop a VR technology that is sensitive to recognize the symptoms of neglect with varying degrees and manifestations better than the commonly used conventional clinical methods. In this project we will use a new eye-tracking VR headset. The piloting stage has started 12/2020. The goal is to gather a data set of 40 adult patients who have had right-hemisphere stroke and as a control group 40 patients with left-hemisphere stroke as well as 40 healthy persons. The patients will be assessed in the acute phase (0 months) and 3 months after stroke with the conventional neuropsychological and neurological methods, VR technology and a structured interview.