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Eva Park project awarded new grants from the Tavistock Trust for Aphasia

Grants will enable further investigation of how the award-winning virtual world can improve communication following a stroke

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

EVA ParkResearchers from the Division of Language and Communication Science and the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design (HCID) have been awarded two new grants by the Tavistock Trust for Aphasia to further investigate how a virtual world called Eva Park can improve communication following a stroke.

The funding will enable the team to not only further explore the therapeutic value of the award-winning Eva Park but also produce a general version of the world so that other centres can run the software independently and exploit its therapeutic opportunities.

Eva Park is a virtual island that was created by researchers at City University London, with funding from the Stroke Association, for people with aphasia which is a condition which results in language loss due to stroke. Currently affecting over 367,000 people in the UK the condition can lead to unemployment, depression and social isolation.

The new grants follow on from a recently completed three year project which showed that Eva Park can be used successfully to provide virtual language stimulation for people with aphasia. Twenty people had five weeks access to Eva Park, with daily sessions from a support worker, in which they conversed, carried out role plays and had group discussions. Results showed that the Eva Park intervention was very well received and brought about significant improvements on a measure of functional communication.

Designed with and for people with aphasia, Eva Park is a colourful quirky place with a range of functional locations - such as a restaurant, bar, health centre and a hairdressers - green spaces and elements of fantasy which enables people to the opportunity to practice social conversations and gain confidence. For example there is a lake containing a pearl oyster and a mermaid. Several people can use Eva Park at the same time and they are represented by personalised avatars and communicate through speech, using a headset and a microphone.

The first new project will employ a software developer who will transform the technology from a prototype to a version that can be released for general usage. The other project will further explore the therapeutic potential of Eva Park. Using single case experimental designs it will investigate whether Eva Park can be used to deliver specific language treatments, for example targeting word finding or sentence building. Both projects will produce freely available manuals and guidance materials, so that other centres can run the software independently and exploit the therapeutic opportunities of Eva Park.

Speaking about the new grants, Professor Jane Marshall, who leads the Eva Park team, said:

“Aphasia can significantly affect people’s lives, and with over 367,000 people living with the condition in the UK we are keen for Eva Park to become a mainstream therapy resource that is widely available to people with aphasia, as we hope it can provide people the opportunity to practise functional and social conversations and gain confidence. This funding from the Tavistock Trust for Aphasia is a major step forward in making this happen.”

Find out more about Eva Park

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