Kessler Foundation and USC Announce Collaboration on Clinical Virtual Reality

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2012-01-10 10:21:36 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Will Apply Virtual Reality Technology to Cognitive and Physical Rehabilitation Research

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 rehabilitation—brain 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. 

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 software—2011 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.”

About Kessler Foundation   Kessler Foundation is the largest public charity in the field of disability.  Kessler Foundation Research Center focuses on improving function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic neurological conditions. Kessler Foundation Program Center fosters new approaches to the persistently high rates of unemployment among people disabled by injury or disease.

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Contact: Carolann Murphy, PA, Communications Manager, Kessler Foundation; 973 324 8382;

About the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies    At the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies high-tech tools and classic storytelling come together to pioneer new ways to teach, train and treat.  The institute’s MedVR lab explores and evaluates areas where virtual reality can add value over traditional assessment and intervention approaches. Areas of specialization include using VR for mental health therapy, motor skills rehabilitation, cognitive assessment and clinical skills training.

Contact: Orli Belman, PR Manager, USC Institute for Creative Technologies;   310 709-4156

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Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 01/10/2012 - 10:21