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January 16, 2024

Research on VR for Improving Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke rehabilitation is a lengthy and intensive process, but it is also necessary for stroke survivors. Repetitive and task-oriented training over several months has shown to be the way to go for an efficient recovery. The thing is, rehabilitation is also tedious, costly, labor-intensive, and requires strict adherence, all while being scarcely accessible to some patients due to barriers such as distance, cost, logistics, or background. This creates a need for accessible rehabilitation services that can be delivered equitably to all stroke survivors. 👩🏽‍⚕️

So… why not go remote?

Telerehabilitation (TR) has already been somewhat explored via technologies such as smartphones, computers, tablets, and video conferencing. While having proved their efficiency in a lot of ways, these programs still come with a few drawbacks; the loss of human contact, or the inability to emulate realistically what would be performed during in-person therapy, for example.

Now… How about immersive technologies? They are becoming an essential tool in many areas of modern medicine, and expand the possibilities of what can be done through a simple screen. Virtual Reality, for one, could answer a lot of the aforementioned pain points quite easily. It has also been shown to increase motivation and engagement in various fields thanks to its level of immersion. So… Could immersive technologies expand the success of telerehabilitation programs, leading to both better therapy, and better access to therapy?

As such, The University of Manitoba partnered up with the StellarX team to develop a Virtual Reality rehabilitation program. This “Active at Home Post-Stroke Program” (or Home PSP), developed in collaboration with Dr. Amine Choukou, combines VR-enabled cognitive training with tablet-led physical activity. First, an interactive mobile app, installed on a mobile tablet, enables a virtual coach to deliver a follow-along exercise program. Then, a simulated VR environment enables activities for participants to complete, resembling scenarios they would encounter on the daily inside their home — but with the possibility of tracking results. 🏠

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