Virtual Reality Training to Enhance Locomotor Rehabilitation

Principal Investigators: Christopher Rhea

Application Number: PCT/US2013/59805, 14/427,434

UNCG Innovation: 13-0003

Category: Kinesiology

The innovation of this research lies not within the use of virtual reality (VR) per se, but how we are employing VR to enhance rehabilitation. VR has been extensively used within assessment of performance and training domains (Bideau et al., 2012; Gerin-Lajoie et al., 2010; Keshner, 2004; Kim et al., 2009; Piron et al., 2010; Rabago & Wilken, 2011; Weiss et al., 2004). However, to date most applications of VR have been limited to providing a visual stimulus to guide the participant’s movement or providing feedback about self-motion. Our innovation is that we are (1) assessing functional mobility deficits with metrics that directly reflect madalaptive gait dynamics (i.e., using structure of variability measures to identify maladaptive patterns) and (2) building specific dynamics into the VR displays to induce adaptive gait patterns in patients. By having patients synchronize to visual stimuli with these specific patterns of variability, we train the locomotor system to generate adaptive gait patterns, facilitating the recovery of functional mobility. We have shown that gait dynamics can be changed in a specified direction in healthy participants (Rhea et al., 2012), and that these new patterns are retained after the visual stimulus is removed (Leonard & Rhea, 2012). Extending this methodology to patients with a variety of locomotor disorders due to a structural or neurological insult, such as a knee injury or stroke, represents an innoviative way to enhance their rehabilitation.

Immediate & Future Applications:

  • These applications are designed to induce particular patterns of movement with-in locomotor behavior to establish a more functional form of gait.
  • The training effect and transferability of these applications are currently being evaluated.

We envision developing our virtual reality training system so that it can be delivered in a number of cost effective platforms in the clinic, such as a Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move, or Microsoft Kinect. The virtual reality training system will be developed to aid a wide variety of clinical populations, including those with a knee injury, ankle instability, stroke, cerebral palsy, mild traumatic brain injury and lower limb amputation, among others. The virtual reality training system will include an evaluation module so that an accurate index of the patients’ functional ability can be documented. With the supervision of a physical therapist (or similar training), the virtual reality system will also have a training module that will be prescribed via the evaluation module. The training module will have a series of tasks tailored specifically to the patients’ current locomotor ability, which are designed to enhance their locomotor adaptability.

Inventor Info: Christopher Rhea