Tara Alvarez is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). After obtaining her Ph.D. in BME at Rutgers University and partaking in numerous research at Bell Labs, she helped found NJIT’s BME Department in 2001.
Alvarez and her team seek to understand how the brain works as it locates objects in a three-dimensional space. By observing and understanding how the brain controls eye movement, they hope to understand more about general motor learning. A greater understanding of general motor control will unlock more information about motor learning and particularly how it is affected by dysfunctions in 3-D tracking.
She actively studies how clinical vision therapy leads to sustained reduction in visual dysfunction. (5% of children and 40-50% of traumatic brain injured patients suffer some form of ocularmotor dysfunctions.)
In her ongoing research, Dr. Alvarez discusses about three different theories of neuroplasticity in hopes to discover any brain changes during vision therapy, using combined measurements of functional imaging (fMRI) and eye movements. This knowledge improves therapeutic efficacy while decreasing cost – especially for children and those with brain injury.
Convergence Insufficiency is present in 1 out of 2 people with concussion and is a common binocular dysfunction that impacts a person’s ability to read comfortably. Dr. Alvarez and her team are developing virtual reality video games as a form of therapeutic intervention to rehabilitate patients especially children to improve vision function which improves their ability to read.
Watch her new TEDxNJIT talk that overviews her research about how the brain changes when a patient undergoes vision therapy.