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Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling :: USF's College of Behavioral & Community Sciences

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University of South Florida · College of Behavioral & Community Sciences · Department of Child & Family Studies · Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

Fractal Mathematics as a Way to Measure Spatial Disorientation at the Annual Veterans Administration Research Day

Cognitive factors often associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and aging include deficits in geographic orientation and executive functions.  Self-reports can be ambiguous and symptoms are often underreported.  The use of technology can help corroborate or determine a diagnosis and subsequent treatment interventions.  

 Dr. William Kearns, with colleagues from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and the Veterans Administration, presented an innovative use of GPS and fractal mathematics to measure spatial disorientation in Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Dr.  Kearns, with Drs. Jim Fozard, Steve Scott, Larry Schonfeld, and Katharine Marshall, investigated the long-term effects of TBI on outdoor walking by community-dwelling veterans who had sustained their injury as long as 10 years before. This was also possibly one of the first studies to use GPS and fractal mathematics to study outdoor path tortuosity in humans with cognitive impairment. 

They found that traumatic brain injury has persistent symptomatic effects and significantly affects ambulation and spatial orientation years after the event.  In addition, the sequelae to TBI can continue long after TBI patients are discharged from treatment in hospital or residential rehabilitation programs.  This has important consequences for how we view rehabilitation for TBI and provide services in community settings.

 For more information about Dr. Kearns and his research, see his Departmental webpage   or contact him at kearns@usf.edu.