http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/virtual-reality-assists-with-the-treatment-of-parkinson-s-disease/article/548785

Virtual reality assists with the treatment of Parkinson’s disease

Posted May 1, 2019 by Tim Sandle
A new study shows how virtual reality can assist Parkinson's disease patients. The research demonstrates how training in virtual environment helps people to improve their balance and to avoid obstacles when walking.
File photo: A person wearing a Vive VR headset.
File photo: A person wearing a Vive VR headset.
The study was undertaken at the Motion Capture Core Facility at the University of Utah and the findings were reported to the recent Experimental Biology conference, which took place during April 2019. The headline from the research was that following various practice sessions with a virtual reality system, over the course of six weeks, patients with Parkinson's disease demonstrated improved obstacle negotiation. In addition, the patients showed improved balance and stated that they gained confidence in navigating around obstacles that lay across their path.
Quoted by Technology Networks, lead researcher Professor K. Bo Foreman states: “The primary advantage is that they can encounter multiple obstacles and terrains while a safe environment is maintained using equipment such as a fall restraint tether.”
Foreman adds: “Participants enjoyed the experience and thought it was fun, not just exercise. They liked training and challenging themselves without the fear of falling.” Addressing falls is important since about half of all people with Parkinson’s disease will experience a fall in any three-month period.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of virtual reality, the researchers tested out the technology using ten patients with Parkinson’s disease. Each patient participated in three 30-minute sessions per week for six weeks. At the end of this exercise, each patient showed a marked improvement in their ability to negotiate around large and small boxes.
In addition, the assessment of each patient showed improved balance, plus greater motion in the hip and ankle.
While the results were effective the researchers note that the earlier such training begins the better, given that Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease, meaning that anything that lessens the impact the progression the better.
In related news, researchers have shown how virtual reality video games can assist people with neurological conditions. The Canadian study, from the University of Waterloo, demonstrates that virtual reality can play a part with treating people with neurological conditions like autism, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.
The way this helps is through the assisting people to shift their perceptions of time, which various neurological conditions lead those affected to perceive differently. The study is outlined in the journal Scientific Reports and it is titled “Movement-Contingent Time Flow in Virtual Reality Causes Temporal Recalibration.”