Virtual Treatment for Parkinson's

Parkinson's disease patients benefit from virtual reality therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Parkinson's disease patients often have difficulty with quick movements, which can add difficulty to their daily lives. Adding sound or visual cues can improve movement and speed. The answer might be as simple as virtual reality games.

Incorporating virtual reality and physical reality exercises into rehabilitation therapy may help Parkinson's patients improve motion and speed.

"Try playing virtual reality games if you have Parkinson's."

Occupational therapists and other investigators from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan compared 13 women and 16 men with Parkinson's against 14 women and 11 men without the disease.

Participants were asked to reach for and grasp a stationary ball as fast as possible. They were then asked to do the same thing when a ball rolling down a ramp reached a particular point. The moving target was visible for 1.1 seconds to half a second. Trials were done in both physical reality as well as a virtual reality environment.

In both environments, the Parkinson's group had longer and slower movement time than the control group when it involved a stationary ball.

Movement time was significantly shorter and speed was more rapid when a cue was given to grasp a stationary ball in both the physical trial and the virtual reality task. But when moving targets were provided, the Parkinson's patients showed more improvement than the control group in movement time and speed, reaching a performance level similar to that of the control group.

Lead investigator Hui-Ing Ma said the research revealed how to set up virtual reality situations that could help those with Parkinson's improve their movement speed. He said the finding suggest that virtual reality is a strong tool for stimulating better reaction time in visual tasks. The study was based off previous physical reaction research, only it was based in virtual reality.

The study was published in the August issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 12, 2011
Last Updated:
July 14, 2011