BY: JULIA RENAUD
BIST’s August Community Meeting was an Ocutherapy demonstration with Alex Theodorou.
- Alex’s father sustained a stroke in 2005, changing the lives of him and his family forever.
- This event lead Alex to pursue a master’s degree in neurolinguistics from McMaster University. He wanted to find a way to improve the lives of people living with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and other cognitive difficulties.
- In 2016, Alex came up with the idea of Ocutherapy, a Toronto-based Virtual Reality (VR) program aimed at improving speed of recovery for individuals in post-acute care rehabilitation programs. The company was launched in 2018 and its momentum is strong.
Ocutherapy uses virtual reality to bring together patient and practitioner to inspire, motivate, and educate in the recovery journey. [It] offer[s] interactive experiences that make the healing process both engaging and intuitive.
Health care and brain injury
- ABI is one of the most common neurological conditions.
- Treating ABI can be costly to the health care system and patients may receive limited treatment.
- Limited care, high drop-out rates, and potential for re-injury can leave patients feeling defeated.
Features of Ocutherapy:
- The program learns from the user to determine the level of difficulty.
- It tailors its exercises to help train the areas of the brain and skills that are most important to each individual.
- A check-in is included at the end of each game to get feedback about how the user felt the game went.
Utilizes a connected rehabilitation approach.
- Data can be easily accessed by health-care workers to better track the progress of each patient.
Beneficial and fun!
- There are different tasks involved with each game allowing the individual to stave off boredom while focusing on key areas of the brain.
- Works on fine motor movements and can enhance quality of life.
- The virtual reality headset and controller make Ocutherapy portable, improving access to care.
- The headset can be worn with or without glasses.
- The headset also utilizes bone conduction technology. This permits the user to hear the sound without having their ears covered and, if you aren’t the wearer, you don’t hear any of the sound at all, which is very cool!
- Since Ocutherapy throws away the traditional method of therapy*, it learns from the user and adapts the program accordingly all while tracking progress.
*For me this involved the wall clock, laser and stick pointers, tones of papers and tape everywhere to name only a few. Also, if I never had to see the letter ‘A’ again, I would be completely fine with that!
Who could benefit from Ocutherapy?:
- Ocutherapy aims to improve speed of recovery for individuals in post acute care rehabilitation programs.
- Benefiting individuals include those who have experienced or continue to experience effects from:
- Neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s)
- Ocutherapy may aid with memory, attention, spacial orientation, brain fog, and mood, to name a few.
- Due to the nature of the VR device, Ocutherapy may not be ideal for individuals with:
- Visual impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses.
- Motor impairment affecting the hands.
Why haven’t I heard about Ocutherapy before?
- Ocutherapy is in its early stages and is in the midst of being trialed and tweaked.
- Early testing has been conducted; however, Alex and his team continue to adapt the program, improving its accessibility, technology, and ease of use.
Want more info about Ocutherapy?
- Check out the official website: www.ocutherapy.com where you can meet the team, read articles about Ocutherapy and watch Alex’s Tedx Talk.
- Have any ideas, suggestions, or questions? Alex and his team would love to hear from you!
Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.