A New Way to Learn Surgery With VR

A new study aimed to develop a new way to learn surgical techniques using VR simulation. Immersive 3D video was captured during 20 surgical performances by experienced surgeons and students were able to observe and learn from these films using a VR headset. Whether this method provides measurable benefit to surgical students has not yet been determined. “This new approach enhances the understanding of surgery; most of the surgeons appreciated its pedagogic value. This method could be an effective learning tool in the future,” the authors conclude.

Ros M, Trives JV, Lonjon N. From stereoscopic recording to virtual reality headsets: Designing a new way to learn surgery. Neurochirurgie. 2017;16:1-5.

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.

Applications of Virtual Reality GIS in Personal, Public and Environmental Health

From VR Medicine News-A new review of virtual and augmented reality geospatial information software (GIS) offers a look into recent advances in tackling public and environmental health problems. The use of this technology has improved user experiences from urban planning and emergency training to immersive games such as Pokémon Go. The review also discusses important technical features and issues underlying these solutions.

Kamel Boulos MN, Lu Z, Guerrero P, Jennett C, Steed A. From urban planning and emergency training to Pokémon Go: applications of virtual reality GIS (VRGIS) and augmented reality GIS (ARGIS) in personal, public and environmental health. Int J Health Geogr. 2017;16:1-11.

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.

A Novel Augmented Reality System to Improve Maxillofacial Surgery

From VR Medicine News–Researchers have designed a navigation system for maxillofacial surgery based on augmented reality (AR). By using CT data, the 3D environment can be tracked by AR software. By using an occlusal splint compounded with a fiducial marker, the authors were able to superimpose a virtual image onto the real environment, creating an “integrated image” on semi-transparent glass. Clinical use of the novel AR system produced good surgical outcomes. “The augmented reality system that we established for maxillofacial surgery has the advantages of easy manipulation and high accuracy, which can improve surgical outcomes,” the authors conclude.

Zhu M, Liu F, Chai G, Pan JJ, Jiang T, Lin L, Xin Y, Zhang Y, Li Q. A novel augmented reality system for displaying inferior alveolar nerve bundles in maxillofacial surgery. Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 15;7:42365.

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.

VREX: an Open-Source Toolbox for Creating 3D VR Experiments

From VR Medicine News–The authors present VREX, a free open-source Unity toolbox for VR research in experimental psychology and neuroscience. Using VREX, researchers can create a series of interconnected virtual rooms. These rooms can be furnished and customized to suit the experimental question being tested. Rooms and environments can be combined to perform end-to-end experiments. “VREX simplifies the generation and setup of complicated VR scenes and experiments for researchers,” the authors note. VREX can be downloaded from vrex.mozello.com.

Vasser M, Kängsepp M, Magomedkerimov M, et al. VREX: an open-source toolbox for creating 3D virtual reality experiments. BMC Psychol. 2017;5(1):4.

Applications of AR and VR in Neurosurgery

From VR Medicine News–Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles have reviewed the status of AR and VR in neurosurgery practice. They also discuss emerging applications of this technology in this field.

Pelargos PE, Nagasawa DT, Lagman C, et al. Utilizing virtual and augmented reality for educational and clinical enhancements in neurosurgery. J Clin Neurosci. 2017 Jan;35:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2016.09.002.