Hock Gan, a PhD student at the University’s School of Computer Science, is working with Ian Glasscock at Games for Life to use an electroencephalography (EEG) headset to assess cognitive ability in children with severe physical and neurological impairments.
‘Children with severe physical and neurological impairments, for example, with very restricted movement and no speech resulting from cerebral palsy, cannot be assessed by conventional tests of ability,’ said Glasscock. ‘As a consequence, many of these children’s abilities go unrecorded or under-estimated. A computer-based tool could revolutionise the way assessment and learning is undertaken with this group.’
Now six months into the three-and-a-half year project, the researchers have used different wireless electrode headsets that make it a much simpler kit than historical brain-sensing technology.
The EEG data stream from the headset reveals when a child is focusing on a screen and allows the assessment to take place through measuring brain waves. The researchers are also using multi-modal human-computer interaction technologies to better determine exactly what the child is focusing on.
‘There are two parts to this project, first we need to persuade these children to use the technology using brain waves and find a way to enable them to control the computer without moving. There may be a way that they can do this by simply using a gesture [such as] a smile to control the switch,’ said Hock. ‘Children will benefit through enhanced learning; clinical professionals through having a more accurate assessment tool, and parents will have reduced stress levels and a better quality of life with their children.’
The researchers have been pioneering use of wireless EEG sensing devices in an iLab training centre to support attention-deficit disorders, autistic spectrum disorders and special education needs, and are now taking the technology into local schools for trials.