A new project led by Dr. William “Scott” Killgore at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is making progress in creating a portable virtual reality (VR) system that could greatly improve traumatic brain injury (TBI) assessments for military personnel. With a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense, this innovative technology has the potential to transform cognitive assessments by bridging the gap between traditional methods and real-world military scenarios.

TBI is a major concern for military personnel, especially in small-team combat situations. However, the current assessments require highly trained professionals, making them impractical in remote and combat areas. The introduction of VR technology changes this by allowing evaluations of realistic military scenarios and predicting real-world behaviors that were previously difficult to assess.

The VR system, called VRMONA, immerses participants in military-related scenarios using a VR headset and hand sensor system. This immersive experience captures data on accuracy, response time, motor coordination, and inhibition, providing a comprehensive real-time assessment of neuropsychological performance.

What sets the VRMONA project apart is its use of deep learning neural networks. By combining artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computational neuroscience, the VR system can identify multiple cognitive abilities affected by TBI. Dr. Jordan Karp, the chair of the psychiatry department, highlights the system’s ability to provide rapid, detailed evaluations that were previously unattainable.

Machine learning algorithms analyze the captured data, further improving the precision of neuropsychological assessments. This cutting-edge research by Dr. Killgore and his team has great potential, not only for the military but also for various professions. The VRMONA project could revolutionize cognitive assessments in remote locations, ultimately enhancing the readiness and health of military personnel.

The $1.5 million funding from the Department of Defense emphasizes the significance of this revolutionary VR-based TBI assessment. This financial support allows Dr. Killgore’s team to develop a lightweight, portable VR assessment system that can be easily used in the field. Beyond the military, this technology could be adapted for civilian contexts, bringing precise TBI assessments to a wide range of professions.

Dr. Karp emphasizes that the VR system’s use of deep neural networks will identify neuropsychological deficits, providing crucial insights into cognitive abilities affected by TBI. This effort is a significant step toward redefining standard neuropsychological assessment, benefiting both the military and civilian sectors.

The portability and rapid evaluation capabilities of the VR system make it a game-changer. It saves time and reduces the burden on highly trained professionals, enabling assessments in remote and combat situations.

The potential impact of this VR technology extends beyond TBI assessments. Its application in civilian contexts could transform cognitive assessments in various professions. By providing rapid, detailed evaluations, it has the potential to enhance performance and improve overall health outcomes for individuals in high-stress environments.

As Dr. Killgore and his team continue to develop VRMONA, the future of cognitive assessments looks promising. The fusion of VR technology, deep learning neural networks, and machine learning algorithms opens up a new frontier in assessing and understanding cognitive abilities affected by TBI.

In conclusion, Dr. Killgore and his team’s groundbreaking work in developing a portable VR system for remote military TBI assessment is a significant advancement. By leveraging VR technology and advanced neural networks, they are revolutionizing cognitive assessments and ultimately improving the readiness and health of military personnel. This innovation has the potential to transform not only the military but also various civilian sectors, bringing precise TBI assessments into reality.