virtual reality physical therapy

The Future: Virtual Reality and Physical Therapy

It sounds like something straight out of science fiction – in a galaxy far, far away.

But it’s not.

BostInno reports that “Danielle Levac– who has a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science and is an assistant professor at Northeastern – is the director of the Rehabilitation Games and Virtual Reality (ReGameVR) Laboratory at the university. Through the lab, Levac and student researchers are examining the potential applications VR may have throughout the physical therapy field – and whether the technology would be more beneficial or detrimental to treatment in the long-run.”

According to the ReGame VR website: “The ReGameVR lab focuses on promoting the sustainable, evidence-based integration of virtual reality (VR) and active video gaming systems into rehabilitation. We explore how VR-based therapy can improve motor learning, balance, functional mobility and participation in children and adults with neuromotor impairments. We evaluate motor learning paradigms in virtual environments to understand how task practice conditions impact motor learning processes and outcomes. Our mission is to produce clinically-relevant, high-quality evidence in the field of virtual rehabilitation. A key goal is to partner with clinicians to create user-friendly knowledge translation resources that facilitate the integration of VR and active video gaming into clinical practice.”

“Specifically, we conduct research to:”

  • “Understand how VR systems can exploit key motor learning principles known to be critical for rehabilitation (such as motivation, task-oriented training and multisensory feedback) and create transfer-oriented practice conditions.”
  • “Evaluate motor learning research paradigms in virtual environments to explore how differing task practice conditions impact motor learning outcomes.”
  • “Develop and evaluate the effectiveness of VR systems and active video games that promote motor learning and functional recovery from neurological impairments.”
  • “Create knowledge translation resources for therapists interested in integrating VR and gaming systems into clinical practice.”

The BostInno piece concludes: “Levac emphasized that any VR tool used for PT  would still include heavily influence from therapists. Games would be selected and tailored by therapists. Professionals would have access to real-time feedback from VR tools, so they can monitor whether patients are completing the exercises they should be doing and how well they’re completing them. And the ReGameVR Lab is evaluating the best methods for therapists to pick the right games for each patient and adjust the treatment accordingly, as well determining the overall efficacy of VR in this field.”