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Immersive virtual reality gameplay detects visuospatial atypicality, including unilateral spatial neglect, following brain injury: a pilot study.

BACKGROUND: In neurorehabilitation, problems with visuospatial attention, including unilateral spatial neglect, are prevalent and routinely assessed by pen-and-paper tests, which are limited in accuracy and sensitivity. Immersive virtual reality (VR), which motivates a much wider (more intuitive) spatial behaviour, promises new futures for identifying visuospatial atypicality in multiple measures, which reflects cognitive and motor diversity across individuals with brain injuries.

METHODS: In this pilot study, we had 9 clinician controls (mean age 43 years; 4 males) and 13 neurorehabilitation inpatients (mean age 59 years; 9 males) recruited a mean of 41 days post-injury play a VR visual search game. Primary injuries included 7 stroke, 4 traumatic brain injury, 2 other acquired brain injury. Three patients were identified as having left sided neglect prior to taking part in the VR. Response accuracy, reaction time, and headset and controller raycast orientation quantified gameplay. Normative modelling identified the typical gameplay bounds, and visuospatial atypicality was defined as gameplay beyond these bounds.

RESULTS: The study found VR to be feasible, with only minor instances of motion sickness, positive user experiences, and satisfactory system usability. Crucially, the analytical method, which emphasized identifying 'visuospatial atypicality,' proved effective. Visuospatial atypicality was more commonly observed in patients compared to controls and was prevalent in both groups of patients-those with and without neglect.

CONCLUSION: Our research indicates that normative modelling of VR gameplay is a promising tool for identifying visuospatial atypicality after acute brain injury. This approach holds potential for a detailed examination of neglect.

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