April 11, 2011

Virtual Reality: A Real Stroke Treatment

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Virtual reality games may be an effective way to improve arm strength in stroke survivors, according to new research.

Investigators analyzed various studies that included 195 patients who suffered mild to moderate strokes. Each study investigated the effects of electronic games on upper arm strength and function.

In the observational studies, researchers found an average 14.7-percent improvement in motor strength after virtual reality sessions and a 20-percent average improvement in motor function. In the randomized clinical trials they studied, the researchers found patients who played virtual reality games had a 4.89-times higher chance of improvement in motor strength compared to those who received standard therapy only.

Although treatment varied in each study, most of the patients played 20-30 hours during four to six weeks of therapy. The researchers say virtual reality systems can provide advantages such as real-time feedback, multi-sensorial feedback, computer-assisted movement, simple graphics, and modifiable speed.

"Virtual reality gaming is a promising and potentially useful alternative to enhance motor improvement after stroke," Gustavo Saposnik, M.D., M.Sc., lead author of the study and director of the Stroke Outcomes Research Unit at St. Michael's Hospital at the University of Toronto, was quoted as saying. "Virtual reality gaming therapy may provide an affordable, enjoyable and effective alternative to intensify treatment and promote motor recovery after stroke."

SOURCE: Stroke, Journal of the American Heart Association, April 7, 2011