Virtual reality training may improve the motor skills in damaged limbs, a new Tel Aviv University research suggests. Patients suffering from hemiparesis — the weakness or paralysis of one of two paired limbs — undergo physical therapy, but this therapy is challenging, exhausting, and usually has a fairly limited effect. Results suggest that training with a healthy hand through a virtual reality intervention provides a promising way to repair mobility and motor skills in an impaired limb. According to the research statement, 53 healthy participants completed baseline tests to assess the motor skills of their hands. The participants then strapped on virtual reality headsets that showed simulated versions of their hands.
The virtual reality technology, presented the participants with a 'mirror image' of their hands, so when they moved their real right hand, their virtual left hand would move too. In the first experiment, participants completed a series of finger movements with their right hands, while the screen showed their virtual left hands moving instead. In the next, participants placed motorized gloves on their left hands, which moved their fingers to match the motions of their right hands. Again, the headsets presented the virtual left hands moving instead of their right hands. Improvements occurred when the virtual reality screen showed the left hand moving while in reality the motorized glove moved the hand.