Research: How Virtual Reality Might Advance Physical Therapy

Might virtual reality make physical therapy more fun for kids?

According to Northeastern University: “Northeastern’s Danielle Levac develops video games to make phys­ical therapy more fun, moti­vating, and rewarding for patients—especially for chil­dren with move­ment impair­ments, such as those with cere­bral palsy.”

“Levac, pro­fessor of phys­ical therapy in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, invited a group of fifth-grade stu­dents from Boston’s Ellis Mendell Ele­men­tary School to visit her lab last week. The young stu­dents sat in the Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Games and Vir­tual Reality Lab­o­ra­tory illu­mi­nated by floor-to-ceiling screens with vir­tual worlds on them, and learned about what phys­ical ther­a­pists do and how research can ben­efit their patients.”

The piece continues: “Stu­dents whacked large balls at tar­gets and jumped through bub­bles in a vir­tual envi­ron­ment cre­ated using an Xbox 360 Kinect. The infor­ma­tion col­lected from the stu­dents’ play will be used to make it easier for par­ents and ther­a­pists to mon­itor kids’ progress and under­stand how they use their bodies during game play.”

Conclusion: “Part of what Levac studies is the dif­fer­ence between learning and repeating new tasks in the phys­ical and vir­tual world. Each posed its own chal­lenges for the stu­dents as they worked out how to move through the games.”