Virtual reality video games used by UEA to help stroke survivors
- Credit: UEA
Virtual reality video games are being used by Norwich scientists to see if they can help people who have had strokes rehabilitate during coronavirus restrictions.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia have created new games to improve the lives of stroke patients suffering from complex neurological syndromes.
The specially designed games included a boxing game where the player spars with a virtual partner, ‘Bullseyes and Barriers’ where the player hits or avoids targets and ‘In the Kitchen’ which sees the player search for objects in a realistic kitchen layout.
It is hoped the technology, which can be used in patients’ own homes, could prove particularly beneficial for rehabilitation during periods of lockdown, social distancing and shielding – caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK and around 20 to 40pc of them suffer a debilitating disorder called ‘hemispatial neglect’.
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That leaves people unaware of things located on one side of their body and greatly reduces their ability to live independently.
But the UEA study is the first to explore the usability of virtual reality games for helping stroke patients recover from this condition.
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Lead researcher Dr Stephanie Rossit, from UEA’s School of Psychology, said: “Current rehabilitation treatments involve different types of visual and physical coordination tasks and cognitive exercises – many of which are paper and pen based.
“We have pioneered new non-immersive VR technology which updates these paper and pen tasks for the digital age - using videogame technology instead.
“But we know that adherence is key to recovery – so we wanted to know more about how people who have had strokes get on with using the new technology.
“This technology has the potential to improve both independence and quality of life of stroke survivors. We also anticipate other benefits such as improved cost-effectiveness of stroke rehabilitation for the NHS.
“This innovative therapy could also improve long-term care after stroke by providing a low-cost enjoyable therapy that can be self-administered anywhere and anytime, without the need for a therapist to be present on every occasion.”