The University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine announced today the creation of the Mind and Brain Health Labs. UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences Chair, Dr. Matthew Rizzo says the labs support a suite of advanced research tools including a driving simulator and real-world data recording systems.
The labs include a large, high fidelity driving simulator with a full sized automobile and a high definition wrap-around visual display. There is a smaller clinical driving simulator that fits in an exam room and will be used to help diagnose functional deficits and help patients in their recoveries. The simulator will be helpful in the care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and peripheral neuropathy. There is also an instrumented vehicle called VENUS that can be used to test research subjects in actual on-road driving experiences and special “black box” data recorders are being built. They can be placed inside a vehicle to test driving behavior in the real world.
Dr. Rizzo says, “Results of these tools will shed light on our patents’ brain health and functional abilities and how they match up with people of the same age without neurological disorders.”
The simulators and other tools will allow physicians to study the effect on performance and mobility of many neurological medical and surgical conditions as well as shift workers, medications and the effects of sleep deprivation.
Dr. Rizzo says, “These techniques, in combination with powerful databases that we have, give us a very comprehensive scientific, clinical, education and outreach platform that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the state or in the region.”