Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) researchers have found using virtual reality to increase a stroke patient's confidence in using their paralyzed arm could facilitate the recovery process.
Stroke patients with reduced muscle strength on one side of their body often underuse their affected limbs, even though they still have some motor function. The researchers conducted a pilot study involving 20 hemiparetic stroke patients who worked with the Rehabilitation Gaming System, a program that enables users to control a virtual body via their own movements with the help of a Microsoft Kinect camera. Participants were asked to reach targets appearing in a virtual environment over several blocks of trials.
In some of the trials, the researchers enhanced the movement of the paretic limb's virtual representation. The researchers found after seeing the enhanced movement, the patients started using their paretic limbs more frequently, suggesting "that changing patients' beliefs on their capabilities significantly improves the use of their paretic limb," says UPF researcher Belen Rubio.
Following the intervention, the researchers found there was a significantly higher probability the patient would select their paretic limb to reach toward a virtual target, even if there was no amplification of movement in that session.
From Pompeu Fabra University (Spain)
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