Neurological health issues often seriously impact the lives of the individuals they affect. Unfortunately, things like a stroke, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis are usually hard to prevent or can go unnoticed for a long time.
They impact everyday life and make simple tasks hard or even impossible. So when we realize that, according to the WHO, up to 1 in 6 people worldwide suffer from neurological disorders, we clearly see that the problem is significant.
How do we treat neurological disorders?
The best way to treat a neurological disorder depends on the specific condition. In general, treatment may include medication, physical therapy, and surgery. Unfortunately, we still don’t fully understand many neural conditions, so in many cases, we focus on treating the symptoms and increasing the quality of life through neurorehabilitation.
New technologies like virtual reality in neurorehabilitation are bringing major improvements to the field. VR provides new ways for people to engage in exercises, making the process more enjoyable and effective. But let’s take a step back and discuss the prerequisites for successful therapy.
The key to successful physiotherapy
For a patient to quickly and effectively relearn lost abilities, three requirements should be met. First of all, the patient has to willingly take an active part in the process. Secondly, the training environment needs to be very realistic. And finally, the participant learns primarily by trial and error, so they should be able to repeat the tasks continuously and receive feedback about their progress.
The role of VR in neurological rehabilitation
Sometimes it’s hard to meet all three requirements for effective rehabilitation. Standard physiotherapy has its shortcomings. For example, the patient has to be constantly attended to by someone assisting them. And if they make an error, it has consequences. For example, a dropped cup will break.
With virtual reality in neurorehabilitation, an assistant or nurse is not always needed, and the patient can make errors without worrying that they will break something. VR therapy has another advantage. It can easily track progress and save lots of data about the patient and his performance for the doctors to review.
Moreover, virtual reality can be used to improve neurorehabilitation by providing a more immersive and engaging environment for therapy. This can help the person practice and learn new skills more effectively and motivate them to keep up with their therapy. In addition, VR can distract from the pain and frustration of rehabilitation, which can help the person stay motivated and engaged in their treatment.
An expert’s view on the matter
Today I invited Jacek Kościesza, an experienced VR/AR developer and Unity Programmer, to give us insights into the nuances of XR apps used for medicine and neurological disorders.
Jacek, you’ve been in the industry for more than ten years now, correct?
Yes, I started working as a programmer in 2010. For the first five years, I worked with databases and created apps for document management. Then I turned to developing mobile applications, and in 2018 I started working on VR & AR projects at 4Experience.
And what do you do on a daily basis?
I’m a Unity developer with a focus on augmented reality. Most of the projects I work on are for mobile devices, but recently I also took part in creating an application for the Microsoft Hololens, so my experience encompasses mixed reality too. And I had my fair share of VR as well.
I’ve heard you have experience with medical XR applications.
Yes, there are a lot of VR experiences that are designed to help deal with anxiety and physical pain. I myself have worked on a virtual reality meditation app for the HTC Vive Pro. It transfers users to a tropical island where they can walk around and change the weather. This helps them deal with pain and emotions.
For example, the participants can start in a cloudy and rainy setting and have the weather gradually improved. This symbolizes how anxiety and negative feelings disappear over time and are replaced by a sense of inner peace. Such applications really help in this process.
How about virtual reality in neurorehabilitation? Have you worked on any such projects?
Yes! We’re currently working on a VR app designed to facilitate and possibly automate the diagnosis process for patients after a stroke. It evaluates the neurological issues of the individual by checking things like movement coordination, motor abilities and mental capacity. It gives the user different tasks and general questions, like what the date is. Then it can transfer the results to a doctor for further assessment.
There is a shortage of neurological professionals almost everywhere on the globe. As a result, it’s hard to schedule an appointment with a specialist. XR applications can help solve this problem by automating what doctors do. Of course, the software won’t replace professionals, but it can take care of simpler tasks for them, freeing up their time. Having said that, what we’re working on is an R&D project, really. We’re testing the possibilities of speeding up and improving the diagnosis process.
I remember another project in which I didn’t take an active part. That application also helped in diagnosing patients, but besides that, it was a form of VR stroke therapy. The user could practice preparing meals. So the app helped find areas with deficiencies and enabled training in those specific things right away.
What makes stroke VR therapy better than standard solutions?
First of all, customizable scenarios. Different environments are personalized to the needs of each patient. This way, we can make sure the set & setting makes users feel comfortable and lets them focus fully on their exercises.
Every patient has their own disorders, issues and preferences, so it’s not easy to create one ideal place for every one of them. It’s also difficult to have 50 places for 50 different people. With VR stroke therapy, you can have a limitless number of scenarios, all accessible from one application and available anywhere where you can take a headset.
And if we’re talking about virtual reality in neurorehabilitation and medicine in general, facilitating the diagnosis process is an invaluable benefit.
Let’s work on neurorehabilitation in virtual reality together!
At 4Experience, we are genuinely helping people and organizations with XR software development. We rely on years of experience but, at the same time, innovate and test new technology to always provide the most recent and most effective solutions. We even have our own R&D team for the most sophisticated projects!
Moreover, we’ve worked on many applications connected to medical and pharmaceutical fields, including virtual reality in neurorehabilitation. If you’d like to see some of our projects, visit our portfolio and choose the “Medicine” tag. For example, check out our VR relaxation app mentioned by Jacek.
If you’re looking for a reliable, client-oriented and complete team for developing VR, MR or AR software, look no further. Contact us today and schedule a free 60-minute consultation!
Notice: This text is not professional medical advice but rather an insight into the potential applications of virtual reality in neurorehabilitation. If you are experiencing symptoms that may suggest a neurological disorder, we strongly advise contacting a health professional.
The author generated this text about virtual reality in neurorehabilitation in part with GPT-3, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, the author reviewed, edited, and revised the language to their own liking and takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.