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Virtual reality stroke therapy tricks brain into rewiring itself

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 02:06

Mar. 26 - A portable virtual reality device has been developed to help stroke patients recover the use of their limbs. The MindPlayPRO can be used early in the recovery process to trick the patient's brain into believing that immobilised regions of their body are still working, thereby spurring the recovery to take place. Jim Drury has more.

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Developers of the MindPlayPRO stroke rehabilitation device say it's inexpensive, fun to use, and offers pinpoint clinical accuracy to help stroke patients recover the use of their limbs. 68-year-old retired technician Urs, who didn't want to give his full name, has begun his first session with the device at Lausanne's CHUV hospital. Six months ago Urs suffered a stroke at home, paralysing his right side. But Mindplay inventor Tej Tadi says through virtual reality the machine will help Urs regain at least some of the use of his right arm. The patient sees an avatar of his unaffected limb on screen as he's given tasks to perform, such as hitting a target. After a while the avatar image is reversed, tricking the brain into believing that the damaged limb is in fact, healthy. SOUNDBITE (English) TEJ TADI, CEO & FOUNDER, MINDMAZE, SAYING: "That then leads into some form of reorganisation or activation between different cortical areas, which we tap into, we measure, and then customise and exercise to maximise that plasticity." Eventually, Tadi says, the games enable the early reactivation of neuronal connections between the brain and the damaged limbs, in many cases enabling those arms or legs to move again. Neuro rehabilitation nurse Charlotte Gilart De Keranflec'H says patients have responded well. SOUNDBITE (English) CHARLOTTE GILART DE KERANFLEC'H (PRON: JZEE-LARD-LE-KERRON-FLAKE), SPECIALISED NEURO REHABILITATION NURSE AT CHUV, SAYING: "They never had the feeling to train or to do hard exercise, but they have the feeling they have a play, they have to play something. This feeling of not being in a hospital when you are very impaired is great." SOUNDBITE (French) 68 YEAR OLD STROKE PATIENT, URS (PRON: OOS), SAYING: "I think it was easier and less tiring than other therapies. It was like a tasty dessert. It was a pleasure." UPSOT: URS LAUGHS MindMaze is an off-shoot of Lausanne-based technology institute EPFL. They hope to see their device deployed around the world to help stroke patients like Urs regain lost movement and improve their quality of life.

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Virtual reality stroke therapy tricks brain into rewiring itself

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 02:06