Virtual reality effects on rehabilitations

Virtual reality in the past was an interesting topic of the future. However, now it has become reality.  In the past couple of years VR devices has become more and more popular due to the efforts of advertisement company and other entities bringing awareness to it in the mainstream media. Facebook said that over 1 million people have used Samsung VR set in April of this year, adding validation to the fact that virtual reality will be one of the most prominent devices in the near future (

Virtual reality has been defined as the “use of interactive simulations created with computer hardware and software to present users with opportunities to engage in environments that appear and feel similar to real-world objects and events” (Yamato, 2016).  It will be implemented in a lot of ways, whether its watching movies, experiencing things from a distance or corporate use.  One of the major fraction of the soon to be prominent source is gaming.  As we explained in class games play an important part of our society.  According to our lecture-  “playing video games relieves stress, fuels imagination, and strengthen relationships”.  Also playing video games can be use for educational use, and build creativity as well.  So it is easy predict that games will penetrate the virtual reality market because of its prominence.  In this blog, I will explore the effect that virtual reality video games can have on people recovering from injuries.

Screenshot_20161031-234027.pngThe effect that virtual reality gaming c
an have on people is evident when it comes to health in the clinical field.  As we talked about in class, in the United States obesity rates continues to rise and currently the U.S is the most obese country in North America.  A number of game developers has used gaming to try to solve that problem.     With the Wii for example, they created a way through it’s sports games to get people to play video games in a physically active way.  With virtual reality they can do the same thing but even better when it involve physical rehabilitation.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and body.  There are many neurological rehabilitation clinics and programs that are in place to help people with multiple sclerosis by reducing the disability.  The unfortunate part of providing therapy and rehabilitation for these type of patients, is that the nature of the disease leads a plethora of factors which leads to inefficient treatment.  Multiple sclerosis patients have difficulties with mobility and geographical location which prevents them from receiving the proper treatment.  Here is where virtual reality gaming come into play.

There was a study done by, Rosa Ortiz Gutierrez, which proved that virtual reality can solve some of the discrepancies in treating patients with multiple sclerosis.  The experiment involved giving the participant games that inv


olved throwing and hitting objects with one’s hands and feet, hitting and receiving balls with different body parts, dodging objects, overcoming obstacles, imitating postures, or managing virtual elements that required them to pose in different positions.  The study concluded that patients can receive treatment through virtual reality gaming that not only imitates brick and mortar rehabilitation tactics but can succeed them as well. Virtual reality solves a lot of patients who suffers with mobility and geographical locations problems because it makes therapy more accessible, while providing motivation through gaming (Ortiz-Gutierrez, 2013). 

Another study was done by Zhen li which deals stroke patients. “ A stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack,” occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off. The brain cells, deprived of the oxygen and glucose needed to survive, die ( Stroke patience rehabilitation is a major problem in the United States because patience who suffers from strokes usually has a hard time recovering to a level of independently performing daily task.  Similarly to multiple sclerosis, patience who have suffered from a stroke has motor disability, however stroke patience most commonly experience motor disability in the upper limb and balance control.

The study showed that virtual reality games can help patients who suffered from strokes.  When patience used virtual reality sets they were able to receive augmented feedback about their performance (Li, 2016).  Also patients that used virtual reality gained the ability to repetitively practice on balance control on their own.  Nevertheless, “researchers found that using virtual reality to increase a patient’s confidence in using their paralyzed arm may be critical for recovery” (

The last study involves people with amputated limbs. Vilayanur Ramachandran, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and professor with the Psychology Department and the Neurosciences Program at the University of California, performed a experiment that would change the outlook of treatments for amputated patients.  In the experiment Ramachandran created a mirror box.  The box was built with two halves; one half had a mirror for his amputee participant to put their physical arm in and the other half to put their amputated arm in (note: people with an amputated limbs can still feel their limb as if it was still there because the brain doesn’t adapt as fast as the time of the event).  This box is created to give his participant the illusion that they have two visual arms by the reflection of the physical one while giving the participant the feeling that the reflection is physical as well.

This image shows an illustration of the actual box: (


Ramachandran discovered that even though participant only had one arm, they were able to send signals to their amputated arm, which appeared to be physical by the illusion in the mirror.  This experiment was ground breaking because it helped amputee who dealt with pain where their old arm used to be (Ramachandran, 1997).  For example, if a patient has a amputated left arm and they get the feeling that where the left arm use to be is clenching a fist,  all they need is a visualization that their left arm is still there in order to unclench the imaginary fist and get rid of the sensation.  This experiment was done in the mid 90s, and now scientist are using virtual gaming to replace the mirror box.  The clenched fist can be unclenched in a more comfortable and flexible way.

The analysis of the conclusion found by these studies proves that virtual reality will be a better alternative then traditional gaming.  Even though traditional video games are already implemented in rehabilitation and solve a lot problem for both patients and doctors,  virtual reality seems to be more sophisticated in its capabilities to effect patience psyche, even in its infant years.  In all three studies virtual reality has proven to have stronger direct effects on the the real world.   Virtual games can not only be argued as the more sensible and cheaper solution to rehabilitation,  but the idea of a device that puts you in another world mentally leads me to believe that it has a stronger impact.  The fact that our visual sense is so powerful, that it can manipulate our brain into thinking we are feeling something that is not there is a testament to how much virtual gaming can effect us.  Its a huge jump between the two.


Li, Z., Han, X., Sheng, J., & Ma, S. (2015). Virtual reality for improving balance in patients after stroke: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Rehabilitation, 30(5), 432-440. doi:10.1177/0269215515593611

Ortiz-Gutiérrez, R., Cuerda, R. C., Río, F. G., Alguacil-Diego, I. M., Peñas, C. F., Molina-Rueda, F., & Miangolarra-Page, J. C. (2013). Assessment of a Telerehabilitation Program by Virtual Reality-Video Games Systems: Postural Control and Multiple Sclerosis. Converging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation Biosystems & Biorobotics, 997-1001. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-34546-3_163

Ramachandran, V. S. (1997). Synaesthesia and External ‘Projection’ of Kinesthetic Sensations in Phantom Limb Patients and Normal Individuals. Perception, 26(1 suppl), 324-324. doi:10.1068/v970004

Yamato, T. P., Pompeu, J. E., Pompeu, S. M., & Hassett, L. (2016). Virtual Reality for Stroke Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy, 96(10), 1508-1513. doi:10.2522/ptj.20150539


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