European Commission Awards €4.8 Million to ICT Project that will help Older People and those with Neurological Disorders

Posted on: 28 November 2011

A project aimed at improving the quality of life for disadvantaged groups including older people and those with neurological disorders has been awarded €4.8 million by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme.  The international project, named ‘VERVE’, is coordinated by Trinity College Dublin and includes collaborative partners in healthcare and academia in France, UK, Italy, Spain and Germany.  The project kick-off meeting took place on October 3rd 2011 in Trinity College Dublin.

The project will develop tools to support the treatment of people who are at risk of social exclusion due to fear and apathy associated with ageing or a neurological disorder. The VERVE consortium will apply leading edge research to simulate personalised and populated virtual reality (VR) environments, 3D web graphics, and ‘serious’ games as a means to addressing some of the challenges faced by the target groups. A variety of clinical, laboratory and industry partners will help design the therapeutic tools and games, and evaluate their usefulness with participants.  The project team will also work with those at risk of social exclusion, as well as their carers, families, health professionals and relevant support organisations, to solicit ideas and feedback and to promote the project’s aims and achievements.

VERVE’s efforts will focus on three situations, each targeting a different group of participants: fear of falling and Parkinson’s disease; apathy related to cognitive decline and behavioural disturbances, in particular due to Alzheimer’s Disease; and other emotional disturbances linked to anxiety.  Although focusing on these areas initially, it is expected that the results of the research will be applicable to a much wider range of potentially disadvantaged individuals.

In addition to coordinating the project, Trinity’s Graphics Vision and Visualisation (GV2) group, led by Prof Carol O’Sullivan, will build on their SFI-funded Metropolis project to create novel solutions for clinicians to create compelling scenarios depicting virtual humans, groups and crowds in a personalised virtual city environment. The Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) researchers, Professor Fiona Newell and Professor Richard Reilly, will bring their experience on the assessment and treatment of falls and frailty, and gait disturbances in Parkinson’s disease, together with senior clinical collaborators such as Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Rose Anne Kenny in the Falls and Blackout Unit in St James’s Hospital and Professor Tim Lynch in the Dublin Neurological Institute at The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

Scene from Metropolis project.

Commenting on the significance and aims of the project, Trinity College Dublin’s Professor of Visual Computing and VERVE project coordinator, Carol O’Sullivan says: “The end goal of the novel ICT technologies being developed in VERVE is to increase user ability, allowing older people and those with neurological disorders to overcome their fear, apathy or phobia and thus carry out daily life activities in a fulfilling and dignified manner. The key to our success will be the fact that the clinical intermediary users will be actively participating during the development of the ICT tools and platforms, and will thus guarantee that the end result will be usable and accepted by the end-users.”

The VERVE consortium partners are Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), Chu de Nice: Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice; INRIA: Insitut National de Recherche en Informatique et Automatique, and CNRS: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), Testaluna (Italy), Kainos (UK), Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain) and DFKI: Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz (Germany).