Bu Research Chronicle Research Fusion Investment Fund – Decreasing spatial disorientation: towards dementia-friendly environments

Fusion Investment Fund – Decreasing spatial disorientation: towards dementia-friendly environments

Dr Jan Wiener (DEC) and myself are delighted to have been awarded Fusion funding to develop a student driven research programme to investigate navigation and orientation skills in people with dementia.

Spatial disorientation is among the earliest indicators of dementia, an increasingly common condition in our ageing society that currently costs the UK £23 billion annually. We aim to develop an inter-disciplinary eye-tracking research programme to investigate factors that affect spatial disorientation in people with dementia. Data gathered will be used to formulate design principles for dementia-friendly care homes, potentially reducing care costs, and leading to new knowledge with significance and reach.

To record gaze when solving wayfinding tasks, we will combine eye-tracking, head tracking and virtual reality (VR) technology. Participants will stand or sit in front of an array of large monitors arranged in a semi-circle that subtends their entire horizontal visual field and affords natural viewing behaviour. In order to create this unique and technically advanced research environment, students from DEC, HSC and the Media School will collaborate as researchers, increasing their skills through immersive experience on a well-designed, cutting-edge research programme.

This will give ambitious students with different backgrounds a unique opportunity to work co-operatively as part of a high-level, well-resourced multi-disciplinary team. We will share the knowledge we gain on improving dementia care home design with the academic community, practitioners, service providers, and the general public. These links will in turn enable us to form strategic local and national partnerships to ensure that the knowledge gained has an impact on professional practice.

Dr Mariela Gaete Reyes (HSC/BUDI) & Dr Jan Wiener (DEC)