A recent study has suggested that VR based rehabilitation may be helpful for children and teenagers suffering from cerebral palsy. CP, and other motor diseases can have the effect of impairing the functional performance of the sufferer, with symptoms including, but not limited to, musculoskeletal disorders.
Because having these difficulties in motor function have a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to perform certain daily tasks, it is important for patients to undergo a tailored rehabilitation program. To that end, the news that incorporating VR into rehab can have a positive effect, is exciting.
A research team in Brazil conducted the study, which analysed the differences in performance for two tests. The tests were designed so that the better one’s timing when performing the actions, the better their overall performance. The first one involved the participants moving their limbs in front of a webcam to interact with, and intercept, falling virtual spheres on the screen. Because it was done in VR, this test did not require the patient to ever physically interact with the computer.
The second test required participants to press a spacebar on the computer to intercept the spheres as and when they fell. To do the test successfully, they had to time the pressing of the spacebar correctly. This was called a coincident timing task, because the timing required to perform both tasks successfully was the same. So, the only difference between the tasks is that one required physical contact with the computer, and one didn’t.
All the people in the study were between the ages of 6 and 19. Half had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and half had not. In the coincident timing task, where physical interaction was required, those diagnosed with CP performed worse, and required more time. In the virtual reality task, both groups performed the same.
Now this was just a preliminary study, and more research is required before any concrete conclusions can be drawn. But the results do suggest that people diagnosed with cerebral palsy perform better when doing task in virtual reality perform better than when they do similar tasks in real life, which could, in the future, lead to its implementation in rehabilitation programs.