Virtual Reality Gaming May Help Restore Function to Paretic Limbs

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A virtual reality gaming system may help hemiparetic stroke patients regain use of their weakened limbs, results from a small pilot study indicate.

Researchers from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain noted that hemiparesis often leads to learned non-use of a limb, which is linked to reduced quality of life. Using a rehabilitation gaming system with a Microsoft Kinect sensor, patients in the study were able to control a virtual limb with their own body movements.

Twenty participants (11 males, 9 right-side hemiparesis) used the gaming system for three stages: baseline, intervention, and washout. During intervention, researchers gradually improved the movement of the virtual paretic limb, making its movements appear faster and more accurate when reaching for virtual targets. Patients were unaware of these enhancements. Patients’ performance on trials with normal settings as well as the likelihood that they would use their paretic limb was recorded.

Researchers found that the probability that a participant would use the paretic limb was much higher in the washout phase after the intervention than at baseline, indicating that a change in their belief about their capability can improve the use of their paretic limb.

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