Prof Americo Migliaccio

Home trial of balance device to begin

Anyone who has experienced vertigo will know that it can be an extremely unpleasant experience.

Vertigo can be symptomatic of damage to the balance organs in the inner ear and unfortunately people with this type of damage have very few options for rehabilitation and recovery.
However, NeuRA’s Dr Americo Migliaccio has designed a new device to address this problem. The training instrument is designed to help people recover use of an important reflexive eye movement that is generated by balance organs in the inner ear.

“Without this reflex, when your head moves quickly, your whole world appears to move, which can produce very unpleasant dizzy sensations,” says Dr Migliaccio.

The device projects a green dot on to the wall, and the patient practises following the dot with their eyes while moving their head – a skill that people with damage to their balance organs have lost.

The device can be set at different levels of difficulty by the patient, so they can exercise at a level just above their comfort zone.

“As long as there is some function in at least one balance organ, the reflex will adapt and normalize under the right training. We think that with just 15 minutes of practice a day, people with balance problems due to poor vision stabilisation will begin to recover,” says Dr Migliaccio.

Dr Migliaccio (NeuRA) and Dr Michael Schubert (Johns Hopkins University), co-inventors of the rehabilitation device, have secured funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia to begin a new trial whereby people will be able to use the device and do exercises in their own homes.

The trial will determine if using the instrument at home yields the same results and benefits for patients when used in the laboratory. If the trial is successful, the researchers will be able to begin working with a manufacturer to make the device available to the wider community.