University of Auckland researcher, Dr Jason Turuwhenua will lead a project team that was last week awarded almost a million dollars in funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s latest science funding round.
The research grant over two years will fund two years of work to develop new technology to easily assess visual function in children as young as two years old.
“This work will include investigation of a highly novel and promising approach to measurement of eye motion which uses an entirely new approach to eye motion analysis,” says Dr Turuwhenua, who works with both the School of Vision Science and Optometry and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland.
He says that the earlier in life a vision problem can be detected, the better the treatment outcomes for the child in terms of vision, educational performance, neurological development, motor function and quality of life.
“At present there are few reliable, objective and clinically usable tests available that allow for the measurement and detection of vision problems in young children, a particularly challenging group to measure,” he says.
“In this project, we will address this global problem by developing a low-cost, portable, clinically applicable device that assesses visual function by inducing and measuring an involuntary, reflexive eye movement known as optokinetic nystagmus (OKN),” says Dr Turuwhenua. “This eye movement only occurs when a moving target is visible.”
“By using our device to automatically detect the presence, absence and direction of OKN, as young children freely view carefully designed drifting stimulus patterns, we will determine clinically relevant and highly diagnostic measures of visual acuity,” he says.
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