Virtual reality used to improve the motor skills of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease

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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.

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“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. “

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Shakes Gilles

Editor of The Talking Democrat. He enjoys bike riding, kayaking and playing soccer. On a slow weekend, you'll find him with a book by the lake.