Neuroscientists hope to raise $5,000 to develop video game to help cognitively impaired kids
University of Calgary researchers are hopping to tap into crowdfunding to raise $5,000 to help children living with spatial orientation difficulties.
Crowdfunding is a grassroots pooling of many small donations, usually organized on the Internet, to help fund worthwhile projects. In this case, #SciFund Challenge is run by ecologists Dr. Jai Ranganathan and Dr. Jarrett Byrnes, two California-based scientists. The public can browse through scientific research projects from around the world by visiting scifundchallenge.org. Only a limited number of projects are considered by #SciFund Challenge for each round of crowdfunding, and only five are from Canada, including the UofC project.
Giuseppe Iaria, UofC professor of cognitive neuroscience, and graduate students Aiden Arnold and Ford Burles aim to raise $5,000 to develop a video game that will assess and train children who suffer from Developmental Topographical Disorientation (DTD), a cognitive phenomenon that has been first described by Iaria and colleagues in 2009.
“Most of us create cognitive maps in our minds after becoming familiar with an environment, which enables us to find our way around familiar surroundings,” said Iaria. “People with DTD, however, have problems creating this mental representation of their environment. They get lost daily in familiar surroundings without having suffered brain damage or a neurological condition.”
Since individuals with DTD experience the same orientation difficulties since childhood, researchers have come to believe it is a developmental disorder that can be detected early in life. The video game they hope to develop will help them to assess children’s orientation skills and identify the individuals who may be affected by DTD. Intervention at early stage in life will trigger changes in brain structures that are known to be critical for the development of healthy orientation skills.
“The crowd funding initiative will allow us to access funding that would not otherwise be available at this very early stage of the research project,” says Arnold. “It will greatly accelerate our research and our ability to apply it and make a difference for people with DTD.”
The Helping Children Stay Oriented Through Life project is one of just five selected from Canada for the SciFund campaign and the only one in Alberta. The campaign runs for the month of May.
For more information and to donate to the project click here.