The BrightHearts Research project led by Dr Angie Morrow, at the Kids Rehab at the Children's Hospital at Westmead in New South Wales, Australia, aims to explore the feasibility and efficacy of George Khut's biofeedback controlled interactive artworks for reducing the pain and anxiety experienced by children undergoing painful procedures, above and beyond current iPad-based ‘distraction’ methods for children.

The goal of the interaction is for children to maintain a lowered heart rate, by voluntary relaxation. The BrightHearts app rewards children with sounds and visuals that respond to decreases in heart rate over different periods of time i.e. changes that they can influence with their breathing, and longer-term changes that require relaxation. The BrightHearts App approach combines standard distraction methods with the principals of biofeedback relaxation training – focusing children’s attention away from their object of their anxiety and fear, and helping them to develop skills for observing and regulating their response during painful procedures.

Initial development of the BrightHearts App concept was undertaken with  financial support from the James N. Kirby Foundation and the Australian Network for Art and Technology, which allowed new media artist Dr George Khut to research requirements with staff and children at the hospital, develop wireless heart rate monitoring hardware, and develop and evaluate prototype iPad visualisation apps with children and staff at the hospital.

Pilot Trial, Kids Rehab, The Children's Hospital at Westmead (New South Wales, Australia)

A pilot trial of the BrightHearts App at the Kids Rehab, at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, commenced in 2015 by Dr Angie Morrow (Staff Specialist, Brain Injury) and Karen Burton (Research Assistant). This pilot trial will assess the feasibility and efficacy of the BrightHearts App as an approach to reducing procedure-related pain and anxiety experienced by children undergoing painful procedures - typically injections, blood tests, and cast-changes. Results from this pilot study will be available in mid 2016.


BrightHearts HPV Vaccination Trials, Western Australia & South Australia

A trial of the BrightHearts App with high school students undergoing vaccinations for human papilloma virus (HPV) is currently underway in Western Australia, led by Professor Rachel Skinner & Cristyn Davies (University of Sydney) and Tanya Stoney (Telethon Kids Institute, W.A.). This trial follows on from a feasibility study undertaken by Skinner and Davies at high schools in South Australia.