UTD study uses brain game in hopes to better soldier rehabilitation



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Posted on July 23, 2011 at 12:52 AM

Updated Saturday, Jul 23 at 12:52 AM

DALLAS - It's the brain game using different colors, directions and even weights to create an unlimited surprise factor.
The haptics device at the Center for Brain Health is full of motors programmed to create a seemingly simple task. The goal is to push the green boxes as they appear. But, with the gamer wearing 3D glasses and a cap to monitor brain activity, it's much more scientific than the simplicity of the game appears. The purpose is to get soldiers rehabilitated upon return, specifically for reaction times.
"Even though you're not really doing it, your brain and your arm feel like you are performing that act in virtual space, said Dr. John Hart, with the Center for Brain Health. "It lets you get quicker, faster; and while you're doing it, we're looking at your brain waves."
"We are trying to mimic the natural environment but slowly one by one," said Roozbeh Jafari, an assistant professor of electrical engineering with the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering at the University of Texas Dallas.
After 20 minutes, participants say they feel like the probe is their hand. Meanwhile, the information is sent back using the EEG cap, which tells researchers where the brain is failing.
"It might be that the two parts aren't talking right," Hart said.
Or maybe the client's medication isn't right.
"When a person is under medication, we can see how effective it is and potentially change the medication." Jafari said.
Researches believe the program could also help stroke victims and even sports athletes
"In a performance way, can we work with athletes to improve their reaction time measures," Hart said. "Can they anticipate something coming? How are they going to catch it and how they are going to throw it."
But, for now, it's about basics and how fast clients react as the haptics program is all about training the brain to think fast.