Technological advances provide an opportunity to refine tools that assess central nervous system performance. This study aimed to assess the test-retest reliability and convergent and ecological validity of a newly developed, virtual-reality, concussion assessment tool, 'CONVIRT', which uses eye-tracking technology to assess visual processing speed, and manual reaction time (pushing a button on a riding crop) to assess attention and decision-making. CONVIRT was developed for horse jockeys, as of all sportspersons, they are most at risk of concussion.
Participants (N = 165), were assessed with CONVIRT, which uses virtual reality to give the user the experience of riding a horse during a horserace. Participants were also assessed with standard Cogstate computer-based concussion measures in-between two completions of the CONVIRT battery. The physiological arousal induced by the test batteries were assessed via measures of heart rate and heart rate variability (LF/HF ratio).
Satisfactory test-retest reliability and convergent validity with Cogstate attention and decision-making subtests and divergent validity in visual processing speed measures were observed. CONVIRT also increased heart rate and LF/HF ratio, which may better approximate participant arousal levels in their workplace.
CONVIRT may be a reliable and valid tool to assess elements of cognition and CNS disruption. The increased ecological validity may also mean better informed 'return-to-play' decisions and stronger industry acceptance due to the real-world meaningfulness of the assessment. However, before this can be achieved, the sensitivity of the CONVIRT battery needs to be demonstrated.