Virtual healing

A Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone or posture. It’s caused by damage that occurs to the immature brain as it develops, most often before birth. These disorders start from an extremely age, often soon after birth and therefore require early reprimanding measures. As soon as the early onset of the disease begins to hinder everyday functions, physical therapy is a popular option advised by specialists. Physical therapy is a front-line intervention for cerebral palsy.  Customized treatment plans address movement problems common to the disorder.  In addition to mobility enhancements for cerebral palsy patients, physical therapy offers pre-emptive benefits, reducing the prospect of hitches and disability. As part of a wide-ranging cerebral palsy treatment plan, physical therapy draws from various practices, including stretching, strengthening and positioning exercises. This can be administered manually through physical training where someone helps you mould your body into the required state. But here is where a new technology helps push the envelope of the precarious treatment involved- Virtual Reality.


Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Unlike outmoded user interfaces, VR seats the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are absorbed and able to intermingle with 3D worlds. By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, the computer is altered into a gatekeeper to this artificial world. Danielle Levac, an assistant professor of physical therapy at Northeastern University, began this study with his star pupil being 10-year old Mia Yale. He found her and her family through a cerebral palsy soccer group started by Mia’s mother. This virtual reality set up includes the test subject to practice the tasks she would learn in her initial study visits where she has to shift her weight and reach to touch the targets in the virtual environment. This enables the child to themselves understand the rhythm of their body and increase agility and mobility levels, usually down from the stiffness of the disease. The eventual and final goal of this study is to understand how the learnings from the virtual environment transfer to the real world, and furthermore how this can be used to make games and challenges in virtual reality more and more effective. This helps these children attain the required skills to live the healthiest and most normal lives possible.


Sharanya Mathur

sharanya mathur

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