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.
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.
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.
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.
The training consisted of two parts:-
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.
This training requires you to decide whether a word is a real word or non-word.
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.
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.
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.
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