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Luigi Cuturi, Giulia Cappagli, Sara Finocchietti, Elena Cocchi, Monica Gori; New rehabilitation technology for visually impaired children and adults based on multisensory integration. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):592. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.592.
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The absence of vision as in pathological blindness may induce impairments in the functioning of the remaining senses affecting psychomotor, social and emotional development. Our previous studies demonstrated that blind individuals are impaired in understanding audio-spatial relationship between sounds horizontally displayed (Gori et al 2014; Vercillo et al. 2016) and arranged in a matrix (Cappagli et al. 2015) as well as in encoding sound motion (Finocchietti et al. 2015). As pointed out in our recent reviews (Gori et al. 2016, Cuturi et al. 2016), to date most of the technological devices for visually impaired individuals is not suitable for young children and not meant for rehabilitation. For this reason, we developed a bracelet that produces a sound when a movement occurs (ABBI, Audio Bracelet for Blind Interaction; www.abbiproject.eu) whose main aim is to improve spatial, mobility and social skills in visually impaired children. It is based on the idea that the audio feedback related to body movements helps representing the surrounding space. We performed one day study in 20 early blind adults and three months longitudinal study in 20 children. In the first study, two minutes training with ABBI improved subjects' performance when asked to indicate the end-point of sound motion stimuli. In the second study, we tested 10 blind and 10 low vision children (8-17 y.o.) showing that use of ABBI over three months significantly improved performance in auditory localization and bisection as well as in motor tasks. One year follow-up analysis confirmed that children spatial improvement is related to prolonged training performed with ABBI. Our results show that a rehabilitation training based on the association between auditory and motor signals can foster the development of spatial cognition in visually impaired children enabling the intact senses to compensate for the lack of visual experience with long lasting effects.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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