VR Based Exercise Regimen Reduces Pain and Improves Quality of Life in women with Fibromyalgia

A new study has aimed to find out whether a VR-based exercise regimen can provide benefit in women with fibromyalgia. Of 83 patients enrolled, women in the exercise group had significantly improved quality of life when compared to those in the control group. Pain, stiffness and anxiety were all reduced in the exercise group, and these patients expressed an improved mood as well. “This exergame-based training program is an effective intervention for reducing pain and increasing health-related quality of life in women with fibromyalgia,” the authors conclude.

Collado-Mateo D, Dominguez-Muñoz FJ, Adsuar JC, et al. Effects of exergames on quality of life, pain and disease impact in women with Fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2017.

Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders

The goal of a new review was to determine the therapeutic potential of VR in mental health disorders. By analyzing data from 285 studies, which studied the role of VR in anxiety (n = 192), schizophrenia (n = 44), substance-related disorders (n = 22) and eating disorders, found that VR provides benefit in anxiety disorders. However, evidence was generally weak, and the term VR was often misused in these studies, with few studies using truly immersive, interactive paradigms. “VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems,” the authors conclude.

Freeman D, Reeve S, Robinson A, et al. Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychol Med. 2017:1-8. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/div-classtitlevirtual-reality-in-the-assessment-understanding-and-treatment-of-mental-health-disordersdiv/A786FC699B11F6A4BB02B6F99DC20237

Virtual Reality Interaction Improves Mood in People With Dementia

A new study sought to determine whether Virtual Reality Forest (VRF) interaction could impact engagement, apathy, and mood states of 10 people with dementia living in an aged cared facility. Participants were found to experience more alertness and pleasure during the VRF interaction; however, fear and anxiety were also increased when compared with a control group. Participants, family members, and staff expressed generally positive opinions about the VRF interaction. “This study suggests virtual reality may have the potential to improve quality of life, and the outcomes can be used to inform the development of future Virtual Reality activities for people with dementia,” the authors conclude.

Moyle W, Jones C, Dwan T, et al. Effectiveness of a Virtual Reality Forest on People With Dementia: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study. Gerontologist. 2017. https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/geront/gnw270/3072156/Effectiveness-of-a-Virtual-Reality-Forest-on?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Using Smartphones to Improve Aneurysm Surgery

From VR Medicine News–A new study aimed to determine if a smartphone can be used to view 3D cerebral angiograms to improve orientation in aneurysm surgery. In this study the smartphone is connected wirelessly to a monitor and is used to control the images viewed therein. The surgeons and operating staff benefited from this method in certain circumstances. Further research is needed to determine if this method provides benefit to the patient. “The implementation is practical, using easily available hardware and software, in most neurosurgical centers worldwide. The method and concept have potential for further development,” the author concludes.

Eftekhar B. Smartphone as a Remote Touchpad to Facilitate Visualization of 3D  Cerebral Angiograms during Aneurysm Surgery. J Neurol Surg A Cent Eur Neurosurg.

Observing Costly Altruism in a Virtual Environment

From VR Medicine News–A new study sought to determine neuroanatomical correlates of costly altruism using VR technology. Participants were immersed in a virtual environment where another individual was in danger. Those participants who risked their own lives to save the endangered virtual individuals were found to have a larger right anterior insula than those who did not. The same participants were also found to have a higher level of empathetic concern toward the endangered virtual persons. “These findings add to the growing literature showing the role of caring motivation in promoting altruism and prosociality and its neural correlates in the right anterior insula,” the authors conclude.

Patil I, Zanon M, Novembre G, Zangrando N, Chittaro L, Silani G. Neuroanatomical basis of concern-based altruism in virtual environment. Neuropsychologia. 2017;1-10.

Immersive VR for Gait Training Safe and Effective in Parkinson’s Disease Patients

From VR Medicine News-A new study sought to determine the safety of head-mounted displays (HMDs) for long-duration VR walking for rehabilitation in 33 patients (11 healthy young, 11 healthy older adults, and 11 with Parkinson’s disease (PD)). No significant differences in discomfort or simulator sickness were observed across the groups. All groups had reduced stress, and PD patients had increased arousal after exposure. “This provides systematic evidence supporting the safety of immersive VR for gait training in these populations,” the authors conclude.

Kim A, Darakjian N, Finley JM. Walking in fully immersive virtual environments: an evaluation of potential adverse effects in older adults and individuals with Parkinson’s disease. J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2017;14:1-12.

VR Augmented EMG Biofeedback Improves Neuromuscular Control in Children With Cerebral Palsy

A new study sought to compare the benefits of a VR augmented electromyography (EMG) biofeedback to an EMG biofeedback alone in the context of muscle activity imbalance in 18 children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) and 8 normal children. Elbow extension range of motion (ROM), bicep strength, and box and block test were significantly improved with the addition of VR augmentation to EMG biofeedback. “The present study is a first clinical trial that demonstrated the superior benefits of the EMG biofeedback when augmented by virtual reality exercise games in children with spastic CP,” the authors conclude.

Yoo JW, Lee DR, Cha YJ, You SH. Augmented effects of EMG biofeedback interfaced with virtual reality on neuromuscular control and movement coordination during reaching in children with cerebral palsy. NeuroRehabilitation. 2017:1-11.

Virtual Reality and Phantom Limb Pain

From VR Medicine News–A recent review article aimed to synthesize the current research on the treatment of phantom limb pain (PLP) using immersive VR and AR. The review analyzed 8 studies, and found improvement of pain with VR and AR treatment for PLP. Simulator sickness was the only adverse effect observed, and occurred only in one trial for one patient. However, due to the low quality of evidence in the studies reviewed, “the current use of VR and AR for PLP management, while attractive due to the increasing levels of immersion, customizable environments, and decreasing cost, is yet to be fully proven,” the authors note.

Dunn J, Yeo E, Moghaddampour P, Chau B, Humbert S. Virtual and augmented reality in the treatment of phantom limb pain: A literature review. NeuroRehabilitation. 2017. http://content.iospress.com/articles/neurorehabilitation/nre1447.

VR-Based Platform Helps Stroke Patients

From VR Medicine News–A new study has sought to reduce the cost-prohibitive nature of balance training for many stroke patients, who typically must see a physiotherapist in a clinical setting for rehabilitation. With this goal in mind, the authors created a VR-based Balance Training (VBaT) system, which combines the Nintendo Wii Balance Board with a VR interface. In a pilot study with 7 stroke survivors, improvement in overall average task performance was observed. “The VBaT system is proposed to be a step towards an effective balance training platform for people with balance disorder,” the authors conclude.

Verma S, Kumar D, Kumawat A, Dutta A, Lahiri U. A Low-cost Adaptive Balance Training Platform for Stroke Patients: A Usability Study. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2017.

VR Gaming Effective for Rehabilitation in Chronic Stroke

From VR Medicine News–A new study has sought to determine the potential benefit of the “YouGrabber” upper limb rehabilitation system in chronic stroke sufferers. No significant differences were found between the YouGrabber and gym rehabilitation groups. According to the participants, the YouGrabber was motivational, but technical challenges of the device were frustrating. “The YouGrabber appeared practical and may improve upper limb activities in people several months after stroke. Future work could examine cognition, cost effectiveness, and different training intensities,” the authors conclude.

Stockley RC, O’Connor DA, Smith P, Moss S, Allsop L, Edge W. A Mixed Methods Small Pilot Study to Describe the Effects of Upper Limb Training Using a Virtual Reality Gaming System in People with Chronic Stroke. Rehabil Res Pract. 2017;2017:9569178.