Stroke rehabilitation boost

Researchers at the University of Ulster have developed new techniques aimed at helping stroke rehabilitation.

The techniques employ virtual reality to help people to regain the use of their upper limbs following a stroke.

A head-mounted display immerses patients in a virtual world, enabling them to practice upper limb movements in a more stimulating environment.

The system displays familiar environments, such as a kitchen or supermarket, enabling the patient to practice chores such as making a cup of tea.

Sensors on the patient's hand and shoulder then feed information back into the headset, enabling visual feedback on the patient's movements.

Lead researcher Jacqueline Crosbie, a member of the university's school of rehabilitation science, commented: "This virtual reality system focuses specifically on helping stroke patients regain more use of arm and hand movement, hopefully making everyday tasks such as eating, drinking and driving possible."

Ms Crosbie revealed that stroke is the most common cause of disability in adults and can lead to permanent lifestyle changes, with between 30 and 66 per cent of stroke survivors not regaining the use of their affected arm.

She added that the new system allows patients to practice more often and to focus on specific movements or tasks in their own time, "increasing the chances of a return to full use of the arms and hands".

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