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Virtual reality aids Parkinson's rehab exercises

July 12, 2011
by root
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Virtual reality and physical reality exercises can be used to increase the movement speed of a person with Parkinson’s disease, improving his or her ability to function in daily life, according to new research from a team of investigators in Taiwan.

In a study scheduled for publication in the August issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, researchers from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan studied a group of women and men with Parkinson’s who were age-matched against another group of participants without the disease.

Each participant was asked to reach for and grasp a stationary ball as quickly as possible. Then, moving balls were rolled down a ramp and the participants were asked to catch them when they reached a particular point on the ramp. These trials were done in both normal physical reality and then in a virtual reality environment.

The authors highlighted three main findings:

1. In both virtual reality and physical reality, the Parkinson’s patient group had longer movement time and lower peak velocity than the control group when reaching for a stationary ball at a self-determined maximum speed.

2. For both virtual reality and physical reality, movement time was significantly shorter and peak velocity was higher in the faster cueing conditions.

3. When moving targets were provided, the Parkinson’s patient group showed more improvement than the control group in movement time and peak velocity, thus reaching a performance level similar to that of the control group.

“Our findings suggest that with an appropriate choice of cueing speed, virtual reality is a promising tool for offering visual motion stimuli to increase movement speed in persons with Parkinson’s,” researchers said.

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