Researchers at King’s College London have created a new interactive VR system for patients to use when performing MRI.
In a new treatise published in Science reportResearchers say they hope that this advance will make it easier for people who find MRI scans difficult, such as children, people with cognitive impairment, and those who suffer from claustrophobia and anxiety.
Under normal circumstances, MRI scans fail in up to 50% of children under the age of five. This means that hospitals often rely on sedatives and even anesthesia to successfully scan their children.
These measures are time consuming and costly, and there are risks associated with them. From a neuroscientific point of view, MRI-based studies of brain function are generally studied only in these vulnerable populations during artificially induced sleep states, so how the brain under normal circumstances It also means that it may not represent whether it works.
Dr. Kun Qian, Principal Investigator of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Science at King’s College London, said that performing an MRI scan is very heterogeneous because it involves entering a narrow tunnel with a large background and often strange noise. He said it could be an experience. You need to stay still as much as possible.
“We were keen to find other ways to allow children and vulnerable people to have an MRI scan,” said Dr. Qian.
“We were interested in VR because of the simple observation that when someone used the VR environment and then immerse themselves in it, they were completely unaware of their surroundings. The system is compatible with the MRI environment. We thought that if we could make it one, it could be a very powerful alternative for successfully scanning these difficult populations. “
To provide patients with an immersive VR environment, researchers have developed a special VR headset that can be safely used inside an MRI scanner.
The headset is designed to be light-tight, so users can’t see the surroundings at all and don’t visually remind them of their position.
When the system is properly placed, the system’s projectors are ready to go and provide immersive content. The VR experience will continue from that point until the patient is removed at the end of the test.
Researchers are very much able to get rid of the sensations inside the MRI scanner by completely replacing the visual scene with the VR environment, creating harmony with other sensations perceived during the MRI examination, such as scanner noise. It states that it is effective. , Table movement and table vibration.
So far, this has been done by including in the visual scene an element that indicates that construction work is underway in the virtual world. This can cause scanner noise and vibration.
One of the main novelties of this system is that users can interact with the virtual world with just their eyes. This is how we behave in our daily lives.
Currently, no other MR-compatible system combines a VR presentation system with intuitive interaction in this way.
Use your line of sight (that is, to allow users to navigate the virtual world, select content such as movies and games, play games, and start or end video links to companions. Just look at the objects or areas in the VR environment). / carer.
The latter means that anxious patients are free to interact with their companion or caregiver at any time during the examination through a webcam with a microphone and a display monitor located in the console area.
Researchers say the next step in the system is to develop content and test it in patients.
“Developing the right content is very important. For the system to be effective, it is necessary to maintain subject / patient attention and their immersiveness for as long as possible. Doing this right and adjusting it for different clinical and research populations is the next important step, as cognitive abilities can vary widely, “says Dr. Qian.
Co-author Dr. Tomoki Arichi said: .. Not only does this make a big difference in everyday clinical practice, it also opens the way for dramatic new insights into how patterns of brain function, behavior and social skills develop throughout our lives. increase. “
Reference: August 11, 2021 Science report..
DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-95634-y
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