DREX: Assessment and Training

So our previous blog posts have outlined how we have gone from lab-based training in a University to a free app accessible around the world. For this blog post we will be looking in a bit more detail at the app itself. Specifically the tasks the app contains and how to complete these.

After downloading and registering with the app the very first thing you will be able to do is to complete an assessment. The assessment consists of 7 separate tasks that are designed to test your current visual functioning in a number of different ways.




In this task, 4 red dots are presented in the centre of the screen. A white dot may or may not appear briefly at some point, either at the centre of the red dots or elsewhere on the screen. When you see this dot your objective is to tap or click on its location.



Visual Search: Images

A number of items that you might find in everyday life will be presented to you during this task. The number of items presented will vary. The objective here is find the pen among these items and either click or tap on it.

Vis Search Images


Visual Search: Numbers

For this visual search assessment, the numbers 1-20 are displayed around the screen in a random order. To complete this task you will need to either tap or click on the numbers in order, starting with 1, then 2, then 3 and so on. To finish this assessment after working your way to number 20 or if you can’t find the next number then just click or tap on the “I’m finished” button at the bottom of the screen.

Vis Search Numbers 


For this assessment you will be presented with a paragraph of text taken from Grimm’s fairy tales. There is no time limit so you can take as much time as you need to read this text. After reading it just tap or click the screen and you will be asked three questions. These questions will ask you to identify a word from the text, identify the type of formatting from within the text and to answer a question related to the content discussed within the text. These questions can be selected by either clicking or tapping on your chosen answer.


Short Term Memory

You will see two sets of numbers within this assessment. The first set will appear in white for a period of 10 seconds and will disappear. After a short period of time, a second set of numbers will appear. For this assessment you will need to click or tap on the number in the second set that was replicated from the first set.


Quality of Life

This assessment presents you with a series of questions about your everyday life. You can use the sliding scale provided to give the answer that best represents your views.


After completing these assessment tasks you can then select the type of training that you would like to complete. The two options are Reading training or Exploration training. It is important that you select the type of training that corresponds to the area you want to improve most. For example if you want to improve your reading, then select Reading training. If you want to improve your vision and your ability to explore the world then select Exploration training.




In this type of training, a word will be displayed in the centre of the screen. The purpose of this is for you to decide whether this word is a real word or a made-up word by either tapping or swiping the screen respectively. In this type of training you are being made to read the entire word prior to making a decision. Therefore, your eyes are being made to move across the entirety of the word. As you get better at this training type it will get harder. More words and longer words will appear.

Reading Training 


In Exploration training you are presented with a number of items on the screen and the purpose is to find the item that is different from the rest. This could be an item of a different size, shape or colour. This training type makes you move your eyes around the whole screen to find the target.

Exploration Training

Through using the training within the DREX app we hope that those with partial visual loss following stroke and brain injury can get the rehabilitation they so desperately need. If you’d like to get in touch with us or want to find out more then check out our contact details on the Contact Us page.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you soon!


The DREX Journey (Part 2)

At the beginning of 2015, the reading and exploration training that produced positive results in the lab became a free-to-download app on Google Play and the Apple store thanks to Newcastle-based Komodo Digital and funding from the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

The app allowed us to make some minor additions in the form of added assessment tasks which can be used to determine any improvement before and after taking part in the training. These are pictured below but I will go into more detail about these specifically in a future blog post.

Assessment Tasks
DREX Assessment Tasks


Through the appointment of the DREX Project Manager – Dr. Stephen Dunne, nationwide dissemination of the app began. Over the course of a year we were able to talk to over 70 NHS Foundation trusts, hospitals and clinics about who we are and what the app can do in the hope that more stroke and brain injury survivors seeking some form of visual rehabilitation after injury could be pointed in the right direction.

In the summer of 2015 we ran a number of workshops, inviting patients, carers and healthcare professionals to have a hands-on experience of using the app and provide us with direct feedback which would enable us to improve aspects of the app to fit with user needs. These workshops were run by Nicki Richards (a DREX researcher) and were a huge success. The feedback received from these workshops permitted us to make changes to the app that are present today and have directly benefitted those who use it.

DREX Workshops

At present the DREX team currently has a few different projects on the go. The first project, run by Mr. Azuwan Musa is a clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of the DREX app. The second project run by Dr. Stephen Dunne is looking at the positives and negatives in stroke and brain injury survivors personal rehabilitation experience in order to learn what we can do to aid survivor’s rehabilitation in the future. We will, in the not-so-distant future, post separate blog posts about these two projects in order to give you some more detail about what we are currently up to.

That brings us right up to the present day. We are still regularly visiting healthcare professionals and patients at hospitals, clinics and meetings up and down the country talking about the latest developments with DREX and the different projects we are currently conducting. So if there is anyone who would like to hear more from us then get in touch via the details on our contact page and we can arrange a talk to deliver more information.

Thanks for reading and we will see you soon!

The DREX Journey (Part 1)

DREX started from humble beginnings, in a laboratory at Durham University. The problem that we were and continue trying to solve is the visual loss that stroke and brain injury sufferers experience. This visual loss is one of the most common and disabling consequences of brain damage and stroke, with the visual loss impacting on numerous everyday activities like crossing the road, avoiding obstacles, shopping, reading and driving.


DREX Training

The training consisted of two parts:-

  1. Exploration Training

This type of training presents you with a number of targets and you must find the target that is different from the rest by size, shape and colour.

Exploration Training

  1. Reading Training

This training requires you to decide whether a word is a real word or non-word.

Reading Training

The key aspects of this training are that it is self-adapting and increases in difficulty as you learn.


Does DREX work?

In 2014 we produced some research showing how this training improved the lives of individuals who suffered from partial blindness following stroke and brain injury. 70 people took part and were divided into two groups. The first group of 35 people underwent the DREX training described above. The second group of 35 people took part in a series of other training tasks, such as mental rotation, but no tasks requiring any visual exploration. Participants took part in this training for 1 hour per day for a period of 5 weeks. We used a number of different assessments and found that both visual exploration and reading improved significantly after just 5 weeks. People who did the DREX training also thought they had improved significantly more than people in the other group, reporting increases in mood, their ability to read, and improvements in their vision generally.

Aimola results blog

These findings told us that this training was able to improve the vision of those suffering with partial blindness following stroke and brain injury, and improve their quality of life. However, dragging people into a lab in Durham every day just wasn’t convenient. We wanted to make the training as accessible as possible. Therefore we created an app available for free download from Google play and the Apple store, thanks to funding from the Academic Health Science Network and hours of assistance from Komodo Digital.

This story will continue in Part 2!

Welcome to DREX


Hello and welcome to a brand new blog about DREX (Durham Reading and Exploration training). At Durham University we have long been interested in stroke and brain injury and have a passion for helping stroke and brain injury survivors. DREX is an award-winning free-to-download app for those suffering from partial visual loss following stroke or brain injury.


Meet the team

We have a small team working on this project at Durham University. My name is Dr. Stephen Dunne and I am the DREX Project Manager. Within my role, I manage the day-to-day running of the project which includes tasks like updating the social media, giving presentations to healthcare professionals, brain injury and stroke survivors about our research and researching how to improve the app.

Azuwan Musa is a research postgraduate and the Chief Investigator for the DREX clinical trial. He is involved in the recruitment of participants for the trial and provides technical support.

The Project Director is Dr. Alison Lane, who has been leading the development of DREX since the start of the project in 2005. She is responsible for overseeing the continued improvements of the training and its application in practice.

Dr. Amanda Ellison is our Scientific Consultant working collaboratively with the entire DREX team providing expert insight into the different directions in which the project can progress.


Why blog?

I have set this blog up to keep anyone who is interested informed about what’s happening on the DREX project. This will include any events we run or attend, a closer look at the research that we are conducting, any interesting findings we produce and generally tidbits that we feel are worth sharing. We also take requests should anyone want to know anything specifically! I will try to keep this regularly updated with a blog post at least once a week.

If you’d like to get in touch with us then check out our contact details