Researchers at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University in Montreal, QC, and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, ON, have developed an interactive virtual reality training program to boost patients’ confidence and increase the success of stroke rehabilitation.
“Relearning and improving movements affected by brain injuries is an intense process that requires hard work and motivation,” said Dr. Michael Hill of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a funding partner of the program’s clinical trials. “Research into how to best engage and motivate patients is vital for stroke recovery.”
By practicing reaching and catching movements through the game, patients stimulate their brain to make the fullest use of its ability to re-organize and restructure itself after a stroke. Trials are testing the effectiveness of 2D and 3D applications to determine the best method for stroke recovery.
“The training program uses kinematics, which measures how well a movement is made,” explains Dr. Mindy Levin from McGill University. “It allows us to understand how recovery is happening.”
Divided into four groups, patients are either treated using a fully immersive and interactive 3D virtual reality system or a more economical 2D game system; while the last two groups practice similar games in different physical environments.
While results are still preliminary, early indications show that the 3D version of the game is the most effective. “Novel use of virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize forever the way we think about rehabilitation,” said Dr. Antoine Hakim of the Canadian Stroke Network. “Dr. Levin’s research is showing that by motivating and involving the user, the recovery can be dramatic.
Focusing on healthy brains is also the purpose of the latest Humana Games for Health project. The organization has recently launched a new application for the iPhone promoting cognitive health. Created in collaboration with Persuasive Games, Colorfall has players thinking quickly to arrange cascading coloured tokens in the order of the colors of the rainbow.
“We’re excited to be the first health insurance company to offer people fun, healthy mobile games that challenge their minds and bodies while encouraging healthy behaviors,” said Paul Puopolo, director of consumer innovation at Humana.