Thanks to virtual reality training, US researchers have been able to improve the motor skills of ten patients with Parkinson’s disease: an encouraging step forward.
Most people think that virtual reality was reserved for video games. That’s not the case: researchers at the University of Utah (USA) have just used this technology to help patients with Parkinson’s disease move more easily.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that is characterized by the progressive destruction of certain neurons: the dopamine neurons of the brain’s dark substance, which are involved in movement control. Patients experience resting tremors, a certain muscle stiffness and slowness in their movements.
American researchers may have found a new way to improve the life of patients: thanks to virtual reality, they have placed 10 patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease on a virtual “road” full of obstacles.
The patients had to walk this path (actually: on a treadmill) avoiding obstacles; as time went on, the obstacles became bigger and the path narrower. “The main benefit of this training is that patients move in a secure environment; they can not fall,” say the scientists, who presented their work at the annual conference of the American Association of Anatomists.
Volunteer patients received 3 virtual reality sessions of 30 minutes per week for 6 weeks. At the end of the experiment, the researchers found a significant improvement in balance, less difficulty to walk, and better motor skills in the ankle and hip.
“We hope that this progress will translate into fewer falls every day,” say the scientists. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease and anything that can slow down its progression should be considered. “