An impression of the Cava device – image supplied


A pioneering project has received a £850,000 boost to develop a diagnostic device to help patients experiencing dizziness.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) has joined forces with the University of East Anglia (UEA) to develop a wearable piece of technology that hopes to speed up the diagnosis of the most common causes of this condition.

Early prototypes of the Continuous Ambulatory Vestibular Assessment (CAVA) device have been in development since 2012. The research project has now received a grant from the Medical Research Council for the next three years to complete its design and to begin clinical trials to establish its effectiveness.

Dizziness is one of the most common reasons for a doctor to visit a patient over the age of 75 years old. However, due to the momentary characteristics of this symptom, patients are often well when they are assessed by a doctor. This device is unique as it will allow patients to be evaluated during a real dizziness attack in the community.

The CAVA device, which uses five electrodes attached to a person’s head, has been designed to be lightweight, durable and can be worn day and night to monitor head and eye movements.

The School of Computing Sciences at the UEA is developing algorithms to identify seconds of eye flicker (nystagmus) from weeks of data recorded by the device.

Principal Investigator John Phillips, who is a Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon at NNUH, said that they would be starting clinical studies later this year and would be seeking volunteers to test the device for a 30 day period.

Once fully developed and tested through NNUH sponsored trials, it is hoped that one day the device will be made available at the point of initial referral to a doctor or nurse to avoid delay in diagnosis and to ensure cost-effective use of precious NHS resources.

He said: “Dizziness can be caused by a problem with the inner ear, but dizziness can also be caused be a whole host of conditions, including heart and circulatory conditions, neurological conditions, metabolic conditions (such as diabetes) and even anxiety.

As such it can often be very hard to identify the exact cause of sporadic attacks of dizziness in many patients. Currently, our CAVA device is entirely unique, and provides us with a special opportunity to gain insight into the workings of the ears and brain. As a home-grown device trial, this is the first trial of this kind that NNUH has ever sponsored.”

The CAVA team have worked with Wright Design Limited in Cambridge to make the bespoke CAVA device. Co-principal Investigator Professor Stephen Cox and Research Associate Dr Jacob Newman at the UEA are developing specialist computer software to analyse the data produced by the CAVA device using techniques involving deep neural networks, which is a specialised form of artificial intelligence (AI).

Prof Cox said: “We have to devise algorithms that can identify a few seconds of nystagmus buried within weeks of ‘noise’. This is very challenging and requires development of state-of-the-art AI techniques”.

For more information about this research project, visit:

Shining a spotlight on research at NNUH

A new campaign has been launched to highlight groundbreaking research at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Stars of Research aims to shine a spotlight on the many projects at the hospital that are looking to find new treatments and advances in patient care.

There are currently more than 300 research projects at NNUH covering many areas of medicine and more than 3,500 patients took part in clinical trials at the Trust last year.

Many of the research projects at the hospital involve partners from the University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park and the National Institute for Health Research.

Erika Denton, NNUH Medical Director, said: “There is a strong commitment and serious ambition for research at NNUH and we are enhancing research capability and support at the hospital.

“The hospital ensures that all the research it undertakes addresses an unmet medical need and has the potential, if successful, to change practice and improve the care of patients at NNUH, in the wider NHS and potentially worldwide.”

The NNUH focuses particularly on research excellence in chronic diseases around oncology, gastroenterology, diabetes and muscular skeletal conditions, paediatrics, older peoples’ medicine and platform technologies relating to radiology and advanced imaging, and microbiology.

Almost a quarter of all research projects at NNUH are dedicated to helping cancer patients and nearly 10 per cent are looking into the healthcare of babies, children and young people.

Stars of Research will focus on a different research study every month and will be shared on the Trust’s social media and website using #StarsofResearch hashtag.

For more information about research at NNUH, visit