“Virtual reality training may be a motivating alternative for people to use as a supplement to their standard therapy after a stroke,” study author Irish Brunner of Aarhus University said.
The study, published in Neurology, involved 120 people with an average age of 62 who had suffered a stroke on average about a month before the study started.
Each participant had a mild to severe muscle weakness about a month before the study started. All participants had mild to severe muscle weakness or impairment in their wrists, hands or upper arms.
They all received four to five hour-long training sessions per week for four weeks. They also had their harm and hand functions tested at the beginning of the study after the training ended and again three months after the study had begun.
Half of the participants had received standard physical and occupational therapy. Meanwhile, the other had virtual reality training that was designed for rehabilitation and could be adapted to the person’s abilities.
Those doing the virtual reality training used a screen and gloves with sensors to play several games that incorporated arm, hand and finger movements.
“Both groups had substantial improvement in their functioning, but there was no difference between the two groups in the results,” Brunner said.
These results suggest that either type of training could be used, depending on what the patient prefers.
Brunner noted that the virtual reality system was not an immersive experience.
“We can only speculate whether using virtual reality goggles or other techniques to create a more immersive experience would increase the effect of the training.”