Johanna Beyts

UCL Hospital

Visual Vertigo and Ageing: Implications for Creating a Safer Environment
Visual Vertigo is a complaint whereby patients feel a loss of balance or nausea triggered by movement in their environment. This can make crowded streets or complex urban environments populated by moving people and cars very difficult to negotiate. Although visual vertigo makes patients hypersensitive to flicker, they can learn to use stable fixation points or safety cues to help them negotiate these challenges. Many do respond to appropriate treatments, but simpler environments without repetitive contour lines, or flicker are very helpful.

Research on the elderly indicates that, in indoor environments, sharp colour contrasts between furniture, clear fixation points and good lighting help prevent falls. Surface challenges, like cobblestones, or very compliant surfaces can be much harder for the elderly to manage, but clear contours are helpful.

This presentation will use visual illusions to demonstrate how we all hypothesise about our environments, and how flicker and luminance affect this.

Johanna Beyts is a Senior Clinical Scientist who has worked in Audiovestibular Rehabilitation for over 25 years. She began her career at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, before moving to the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital where she worked on the relationship between subjective and objective measures of dizziness and imbalance.

In her current role as Vestibular Scientist at UCL, Johanna develops treatments for patients with vertigo and imbalance. She takes a special interest in related conditions such as secondary anxieties and Hyperventilation Syndrome, and uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help patients manage these. She is currently focusing on treatments for visual vertigo and vestibular migraine based on the avoidance of movement or environments which trigger imbalance.

Johanna has published widely on areas such as Human Conditioning and Hyperventilation Syndrome, including a chapter on the rehabilitation of balance disorders in Scott Browne’s Otolaryngology (6th Edition, Butterworths, 1997). She also lectures on MSc Audiology courses at the UCL Ear Institute, runs an annual masterclass on Vestibular Rehabilitation and chaired the Balance Interest Group of the British Society of Audiology for 5 years. In 2007, Johanna was awarded the Ruth Spencer Prize for services to British Audiology.
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