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Glaucoma research aided by virtual reality technology

Researchers looking into the factors that lead to falls in elderly patients who suffer from glaucoma utilized virtual reality technology to aid them in their study. Patients with glaucoma have three times the risk of falling than those who do not have glaucoma and falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among the elderly. The study was conducted at the University of California, San Diego and involved 80 participants with about half of them suffering from open-angle glaucoma. Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles were worn by all participants. These technological goggles simulate different types of motion such as moving through a tunnel, or standing on a spinning floor. The participants stood on a force platform that recorded their movements when they would regain their balance when going through the simulated movements. The results showed that the glaucoma patients made balance adjustments that were 30 to 40 percent more pronounced than the movements made by those without glaucoma. In addition, glaucoma patients took more time in regaining their balance and the degree to which balance was lost was heavily linked to a history of falls. Researchers theorized that the significant lack of balance control in the participants with glaucoma may be related to the loss of retinal ganglion cells due to the glaucoma. Loss of these cells can cause slower visual processing and inhibited motion perception.*

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