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Crowd funding helps people find their way

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Researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary have created an opportunity for members of the public to directly engage in scientific research and impact the lives of children living with spatial orientation difficulties.

Giuseppe Iaria, professor of cognitive neuroscience, and graduate students Aiden Arnold and Clayton Ford Burles are engaging members of the public in crowd-funding, a new funding model where members of the public can browse through scientific research projects from around the world. By visiting the public can select a project and donation amount to play an active role in making scientific research happen.

The researchers aim to raise $5,000 to develop a video game that will assess and train children who suffer from Developmental Topographical Disorientation (DTD), a cognitive phenomenon that has been first described by Iaria and colleagues in 2009.  

“Most of us create cognitive maps in our minds after becoming familiar with an environment, which enables us to find our way around familiar surroundings,” says Iaria. “People with DTD, however, have problems creating this mental representation of their environment. They get lost daily in familiar surroundings without having suffered brain damage or a neurological condition.”

Since individuals with DTD experience the same orientation difficulties since childhood, researchers have come to believe it is a developmental disorder that can be detected early in life. The video game they hope to develop, with support from the crowd funding campaign, will help them to assess children’s orientation skills and identify the individuals who may be affected by DTD. Intervention at early stage in life will trigger changes in brain structures that are known to be critical for the development of healthy orientation skills.

“The crowd funding initiative will allow us to access funding that would not otherwise be available at this very early stage of the research project,” says Arnold. “It will greatly accelerate our research and our ability to apply it and make a difference for people with DTD.”

The Helping Children Stay Oriented Through Life project is one of just five selected from Canada for the SciFund campaign and the only one in Alberta. The campaign runs for the month of May. 

For more information and to donate to the project visit: