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 A study suggests that physical rehabilitation using VR can help kids with cerebral palsy

A recent pilot study has thrown some light into the impact of virtual reality-based physical exercises on children with cerebral palsy. It found out that these forms of exercises enhanced the motor performances of children or teenagers with the condition.

Cerebral palsy, which is a motor disorder, is often related to learning, sensation, communication, behaviour, and body perception changes. Other musculoskeletal disorders and epilepsy also have negative impacts on the performances of patients.

Motor function-related difficulties can differ, and they severely impact the abilities of people to perform day to day tasks. People who are afflicted with the cerebral palsy disorder should partake in multidisciplinary rehab processes which encompass aspects like personal and environmental factors.

The incorporation of virtual reality (VR) based environments is a growing prospect for carrying out rehabilitation-related tasks. Computerised technology is evidently accessible and useful, to help in enhancing the motor functions of children affected by cerebral palsy.

A Brazilian research team has measured the impact caused by movement interposition on the physical performances of children with the disease, with VR-based tasks.

20 children and adolescents partook in the study, with the participants being between within the ages of 6 and 19. As many as 10 of the participants were individuals already diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The 10 other participants were experiencing the development of the condition. All participants were asked to follow particular physical exercise directions, which depended on their interaction with a computer system.

Two distinct software programmes were developed by the research team for the purpose of the experiment. The first programme called “MoveHero” facilitated intervention by the means of a virtual task. The other program set forth a task focused on coincident timing, and it required physical contact of the participants with a computer system.

The first strategy saw the participants attempting to perform movements with their upper limbs, right in front of a webcam. The objective was to intercept falling spheres, which were falling based on the rhythms of a song that ran for eight minutes. Spheres could not fall beyond a certain target height and participants would make sure of that using either their right or left arms and hands.

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A similar task was also performed following the first virtual task. But the participants had to utilise physical contact to complete the same tasks. They had to use the computer keyboard spacebar button. The goal was to press the spacebar button as fast as possible.

The coincident timing task was evaluated for responsiveness. The findings suggested that there were not many differences among participants who had or did not have cerebral palsy. Yet, the children affected by cerebral palsy needed more time to get the job done, and also struggled to perform as well as the other group. The MoveHero task saw both the groups exhibit similar responses.

The MoveHero exercise experience helped the participants with cerebral palsy to improve their responsiveness. Further developments are expected to cement the evidence of VR as a therapeutic medium.

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