Motion capture virtual reality-based rehabilitation has become more common. However, therapists face challenges to the implementation of virtual reality (VR) in clinical settings. Use of motion capture technology such as the Xbox Kinect may provide a useful rehabilitation tool for the treatment of postural instability and cardiovascular deconditioning in individuals with chronic severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a Kinect-based VR intervention using commercially available motion capture games on balance outcomes for an individual with chronic TBI. The secondary purpose was to assess the feasibility of this intervention for eliciting cardiovascular adaptations.
A single system experimental design (n = 1) was utilized, which included baseline, intervention, and retention phases. Repeated measures were used to evaluate the effects of an 8-week supervised exercise intervention using two Xbox One Kinect games. Balance was characterized using the dynamic gait index (DGI), functional reach test (FRT), and Limits of Stability (LOS) test on the NeuroCom Balance Master. The LOS assesses end-point excursion (EPE), maximal excursion (MXE), and directional control (DCL) during weight-shifting tasks. Cardiovascular and activity measures were characterized by heart rate at the end of exercise (HRe), total gameplay time (TAT), and time spent in a therapeutic heart rate (TTR) during the Kinect intervention. Chi-square and ANOVA testing were used to analyze the data.
Dynamic balance, characterized by the DGI, increased during the intervention phase χ 2 (1, N = 12) = 12, p = .001. Static balance, characterized by the FRT showed no significant changes. The EPE increased during the intervention phase in the backward direction χ 2 (1, N = 12) = 5.6, p = .02, and notable improvements of DCL were demonstrated in all directions. HRe (F (2,174) = 29.65, p = < .001) and time in a TTR (F (2, 12) = 4.19, p = .04) decreased over the course of the intervention phase.
Use of a supervised Kinect-based program that incorporated commercial games improved dynamic balance for an individual post severe TBI. Additionally, moderate cardiovascular activity was achieved through motion capture gaming. Further studies appear warranted to determine the potential therapeutic utility of commercial VR games in this patient population.
Clinicaltrial.gov ID – NCT02889289
The last two decades demonstrated an exponential trend in the implementation of virtual reality (VR) in clinical settings . Researchers and clinicians alike are enticed by the potential of this technology to enhance neuroplasticity secondary to rehabilitation interventions. Currently, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox offer commercially developed semi-immersive VR platforms which are used for rehabilitation . Several studies report positive effects of these commercial technologies for improving balance, coordination and strength [3, 4, 5]. In 2010, Microsoft introduced a novel infrared camera that works on the Xbox platform called Kinect. The Kinect camera replaces hand held remote controls through the use of whole body motion capture technology.
Whole body motion capture VR allows a unique opportunity for individuals to experience a heightened sense of realism during task-specific therapeutic activities. However, clinicians need to be able to match a game’s components to an individual’s functional deficits. Seamon et al.  provided a clinical demonstration of how the Kinect platform can be used with Gentiles taxonomy for progressively challenging postural stability and influencing motor learning in a patient with progressive supranuclear palsy. Similarly, Levac et al.  developed a clinical framework titled, “Kinecting with Clinicians” (KWiC) to broadly address implementation barriers. The KWiC resource describes mini-games from Kinect Adventures on the Xbox 360 in order to provide a comprehensive document for clinicians to reference. Clinicians can use KWiC to base game selection and play on their client’s goals and the therapist’s plan of care for that individual.
In parallel with knowledge translation research, several studies found postural control improvements in multiple diagnostic groups including individuals with chronic stroke [8, 9, 10], Friedrich’s Ataxia , multiple sclerosis , Parkinson’s disease , and mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI)  when using Kinect based rehabilitation. Additional research shows that exercising with the Kinect system can reach an appropriate intensity for cardiovascular adaptation. For example, Neves et al.  and Salonini et al.  reported increases in exercise heart rate and blood pressure in healthy individuals and children with cystic fibrosis while playing Kinect games. Similarly, Kafri et al.  reported the ability of individuals post-stroke to reach levels of light to moderate intensity using Kinect games.
Individuals with TBI are likely to have a peak aerobic capacity 65–74% to that of healthy control subjects . There is limited research on cardiovascular training after severe TBI . However, Bateman et al.  demonstrated that individuals with severe TBI can improve cardiovascular fitness during a 12-week program participants exercised at an intensity equal to 60–80% of their maximum heart rate 3 days per week. Commercial Xbox Kinect games, such as Just Dance 3, have been shown to improve cardiovascular outcomes for individuals with chronic stroke . However, there is a lack of research investigating the efficacy of motion capture VR on cardiovascular health for individuals with chronic severe TBI. Walker et al.  makes the recommendation for rehabilitation programs to go beyond independence in basic mobility and to develop treatment strategies to address high-level physical activities. The high rates of sedentary behavior in individuals across all severities of TBI could be attributed the lack of addressing these limitations in activity.
Postural instability is the second most frequent, self-reported limitation, 5 years post injury for individuals with severe TBI . It is unknown whether use of motion capture VR in individuals with severe, chronic TBI can address neuromotor impairments related to high-level activities such as maintaining postural control during walking. Similarly, there is a need to determine if training with VR motion capture can attain necessary intensity levels for inducing cardiovascular adaptation. Due to this knowledge gap and heterogencity of individuals post TBI, feasibility of investigatory interventions should be explored prior to examining effectiveness with randomized control trials. Single system experimental design (SSED) provides a higher level of rigor compared to case studies based on the ability to compare outcomes across phase conditions with the participant acting as their own control. The value of SSED within rehabilitation has been noted by other investigators [23, 24] making it an attractive design for practitioners aiming to gain insight into novel clinical interventions prior to large scale clinical trials. The purpose of this proof of concept and feasibility study was to evaluate the effectiveness of commercially available Xbox One Kinect games as a treatment modality for the rehabilitation of balance and cardiovascular fitness for a veteran with chronic severe TBI. Additionally, we provide herein a description of the Kinect games to assist providers with clinical implementation. […]
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