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 Study Links Cannabis Use in Adolescence to Schizophrenia

Psychoactive compound in cannabis may trigger the brain disorder, researchers say.

Violent Attacks Against Jews Declined 12% in 2016, But Anti-Semitic Hate Speech Spiked

U.S. college campuses saw a 45% rise in anti-Semitism of all forms, annual TAU Kantor Center study reports.

Israeli Student Film Sets Guinness World Record

Lior Geller's Roads noted for most awards won by a short student film.

Tiny Whiteflies Provide Insight into Stabilizing Manmade Drones during Takeoff

The insects spread their wings only after leaping, rotating and reversing direction in midair, TAU researchers say.

Where the Jordan Stops Flowing

Regional cooperation key to river restoration strategy that could be emulated around the world, says TAU researcher.

Infant Vitamin B1 Deficiency Leads to Poor Motor Function and Balance

Lack of vitamin has long-term consequences for children's health, TAU researchers say.

Scientists Discover Mechanism That Causes Cancer Cells to Self-destruct

Modifying specific proteins during cancer cell division unleashes a natural killing mechanism, say TAU researchers.

Insulin Resistance May Lead to Faster Cognitive Decline

Executive function and memory are particularly vulnerable to the effects of insulin resistance, TAU researchers say.

Study Finds Disruptive Children Do Not Inspire Similar Behavior in Their Siblings

Siblings are more likely to learn how not to behave, say TAU researchers.

Sponge Bacterium Found to Encapsulate Arsenic Drawn from Environment

Entotheonella sequesters and neutralizes toxins within sponge host, say TAU researchers.

Outdoor Adventure Program Is a Promising Complementary Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Challenge-based intervention may be effective in reducing the severity of autism symptoms, TAU researchers say.

Ancient Jars Found in Judea Reveal Earth's Magnetic Field is Fluctuating, Not Diminishing

New evidence says geomagnetic force "spiked" in 8th century BCE, say TAU, Hebrew University, UC San Diego researchers.

The Zuckerman Post-Doctoral Scholarship Program at TAU Calls for Applications

Initiative designed to support future generations of leaders in STEM disciplines in the US and Israel.

Drug Candidate Stabilizes Essential Transport Mechanism in Nerve Cells

NAP blocks formation of "tangles" that contribute to Alzheimer's disease, says TAU researcher.

contentSecondary
c

© 2017 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