Register for updates

 
 

Psychology & Psychiatry
RSS Feed
New Virtual Reality Technology May Improve Motor Skills in Damaged Limbs
Wednesday, December 14, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Novel training may rehabilitate impaired limbs by allowing healthy limbs to lead "by example," say TAU researchers

A combination of traditional physical therapy and technology may improve the motor skills and mobility of an impaired hand by having its partner, more mobile hand lead by example through virtual reality training, new Tel Aviv University research suggests.

"Patients suffering from hemiparesis — the weakness or paralysis of one of two paired limbs — undergo physical therapy, but this therapy is challenging, exhausting, and usually has a fairly limited effect," said lead investigator Prof. Roy Mukamel of TAU's School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, who conducted the research with his student Ori Ossmy. "Our results suggest that training with a healthy hand through a virtual reality intervention provides a promising way to repair mobility and motor skills in an impaired limb." The research was published in Cell Reports.

Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

53 healthy participants completed baseline tests to assess the motor skills of their hands, then strapped on virtual reality headsets that showed simulated versions of their hands. The virtual reality technology, however, presented the participants with a "mirror image" of their hands — when they moved their real right hand, their virtual left hand would move.

In the first experiment, participants completed a series of finger movements with their right hands, while the screen showed their "virtual" left hands moving instead. In the next, participants placed motorized gloves on their left hands, which moved their fingers to match the motions of their right hands. Again, the headsets presented the virtual left hands moving instead of their right hands.

The research team found that when subjects practiced finger movements with their right hands while watching their left hands on 3D virtual reality headsets, they could use their left hands more efficiently after the exercise. But the most notable improvements occurred when the virtual reality screen showed the left hand moving while in reality the motorized glove moved the hand.

Tricking the brain

"We effectively tricked the brain," said Prof. Mukamel.

"Technologically, these experiments were a big challenge," Prof. Mukamel continued. "We manipulated what people saw and combined it with the passive, mechanical movement of the hand to show that our left hand can learn even when it is not moving under voluntary control."

The researchers are optimistic that this research could be applied to patients in physical therapy programs who have lost the strength or control of one hand. "We need to show a way to obtain high-performance gains relative to other, more traditional types of therapies," said Prof. Mukamel. "If we can train one hand without voluntarily moving it and still show significant improvements in the motor skills of that hand, we've achieved the ideal."

The researchers are currently examining the applicability of their novel VR training scheme to stroke patients.




Latest News

TAU Archaeologists Discover "Oldest School in the World"

Ancestors of modern humans taught their children how to make flint tools at prehistoric school, researchers say.

Novel Nanomedicine Inhibits the Progression of Pancreatic Cancer in Mouse Models, TAU Researchers Say

Survival rates in pancreatic cancer linked to inverse correlation between specific oncogene and tumor suppressant.

From the Omelette to the Egg: Reversing Protein Aggregations

Some protein aggregations are reversible and beneficial, TAU researchers say.

TAU Scientists Make Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Using stem cell-based biomedical engineering to rehabilitate a severed spinal cord, TAU and Technion scientists restore control of their legs.

Byzantine Mosaic Unearthed at Ashdod-Yam in Israel

Greek inscription is earliest known use of the Georgian calendar, TAU researchers say.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy May Alleviate Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Treatment has potential to correct behavioral and physical deficits associated with the disease, TAU researchers say.

Skipping Breakfast Disrupts "Clock Genes" that Regulate Body Weight and Glucose

Consuming breakfast normalizes the expression of genes that improve insulin and glucose responses all day long, TAU researchers say.

Dual Virtual Reality/Treadmill Exercises Promote Brain Plasticity in Parkinson's Patients

Therapy effective even in later stages of the disease, TAU researchers say.

AFTAU to Celebrate the Steve Tisch School of Film & Television at Annual Gala Dinner

Philanthropist and producer Steve Tisch to be honored; prominent industry leaders to serve as vice chairs.

Children's Exposure to Secondhand Smoke May Be Vastly Underestimated by Parents

Smoking parents misperceive where and when their kids are exposed to cigarette smoke, TAU researchers say.

contentSecondary
c

© 2018 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10006 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University