Published On: Tue, Nov 22nd, 2016

VR Tech Can Help Parkinson’s Patients — Tel Aviv University Study Shows

Intervention can be used in gyms, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, Tel Aviv University researchers say.

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VR – Virtual Reality — when used together with a treadmill may help Prevent people who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease from suffering falls. This according to a new study from researchers at Tel Aviv University.

We all know what an awful disease Parkinson’s is. It not affects the body, but the mind as well. Sufferers not only end up trapped in wheelchairs, but they also lose their ability to communicate and to remember what happens around them.

While the researchers have not found a cure, they have found a new way to help treat some of the symptoms at the very least.

People who suffer from Parkinson’s lose control of their muscles and have difficulty walking. This leads to many injuries which result from accidents like falling down. The study showed a 50% drop in the rate of falls among those who underwent the VR treadmill training.

Prof. Jeff Hausdorff and Dr. Anat Mirelman, both of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine and TASMC’s Center for the Study of Movement, Cognition and Mobility, have shown that such combined use of VR and treadmills help improve both the physical and cognitive aspects of walking, and could be implemented in gyms, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes to improve walking skills and prevent the falls of older adults and those with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

“Falls often start a vicious cycle with many negative health consequences, ” said Dr. Mirelman. “The ability of older people to negotiate obstacles can be impaired because of age-related decline in cognitive abilities like motor planning, divided attention, executive control and judgement. But current interventions typically focus almost exclusively on improving muscle strength, balance and gait.

“Our approach helps improve both physical mobility and cognitive aspects that are important for safe walking, ” Dr. Mirelman continued. “We found that virtual reality plus treadmill training helped to reduce fall frequency and fall risk for at least six months after training — significantly more than treadmill training alone. This suggests that our use of virtual reality successfully targeted the cognitive aspects of safe ambulation to reduce the risk of falls.”

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