|14 December 2016|

New research suggests combining physical therapy and technology could help increase movement in patients with impaired limbs.

Combined they could help improve the motor skills and mobility of an impaired hand by having the other, more mobile hand lead by example through virtual reality training.

The research undertaken at Tel Aviv University was led by Professor Roy Mukamel of TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience. He conducted the research with his student Ori Ossmy.

“Our 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,” he said of the research, which was published in Cell Reports.

Professor Mukamel continued: “We manipulated what people saw and combined it with the passive, mechanical movement of the hand to show that our left hand can learn even when it is not moving under voluntary control.”

The researchers believe this research could be applied to patients in physical therapy programs who have lost the strength or control of one hand. “We need to show a way to obtain high-performance gains relative to other, more traditional types of therapies,” said Professor Mukamel. “If we can train one hand without voluntarily moving it and still show significant improvements in the motor skills of that hand, we’ve achieved the ideal.”

The researchers are currently examining the applicability of their novel VR training scheme to stroke patients.