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Virtual Environments Aid Stroke Rehab

An innovative rehabilitation approach uses virtual environments to simulate functional tasks, allowing repetitive exercise training for stroke victims.

In a new study, Sergei V. Adamovich, Ph.D., and colleagues at the New Jersey Institute of Technology used interactive video game-based therapy to improve hand and arm function among individuals who had suffered a stroke.

“In virtual environments, individuals with arm and hand impairment practiced tasks such as reaching and touching virtual objects. They took a cup from a shelf and put it on a table, hammered a nail, and even played a virtual piano,” Adamovich said.

Even years after a stroke occurs, people with disabled limbs still sometimes show improvement with therapy. Though recent studies have shown recovery is possible, researchers aim to further improve the speed and fluidity of motor control.

In this study, 24 participants who had a stroke at least six months prior to therapy practiced with the video game for about 22 hours over a two-week period. With the aid of a robotic arm, individuals attempted increasingly difficult tasks. Adamovich and his colleagues observed that the volunteers moved their hands faster over the course of the tests.

The researchers also examined whether therapy changed the participants’ brains to improve motor functions. In ongoing trials, the authors used transcranial magnetic stimulation and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to map connections in the volunteers’ brains as they underwent rehabilitation.

“Our preliminary data suggest that, indeed, robot-assisted training in virtual reality may be beneficial for functional recovery after chronic stroke,” Adamovich said.

“Furthermore, our data imply that this recovery may be particularly due to increased functional connections between different brain regions.”

Source: Society for Neuroscience

Virtual Environments Aid Stroke Rehab

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Virtual Environments Aid Stroke Rehab. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/11/17/virtual-environments-aid-stroke-rehab/20995.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.