Parkinson's Disease Patients May Benefit from Virtual-Reality-Based Therapies

According to New Study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Philadelphia, PA, July 11, 2011 – In people with Parkinson's Disease (PD), the inability to make quick movements limits basic functioning in daily life. Movement can be improved by various cueing techniques, such as providing visual or auditory stimuli when movements are started. In a study scheduled for publication in the August issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, researchers report that virtual reality (VR) and physical reality exercises can be used to provide effective stimuli to increase movement speeds in PD patients.

Investigators from the Departments of Occupational Therapy, Neurology, and Mechanical Engineering, the Institute of Education, and Allied Health Sciences, the National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan, studied a group of 13 women and 16 men with PD who were age-matched against 14 women and 11 men without PD. Each participant was asked to reach for and grasp a stationary ball as quickly as possible. Then, moving balls were rolled down a ramp and the participants were asked to catch them when they reached a particular point on the ramp. When trying to catch the moving balls, the targets were visible for periods from 1.1 to 0.5 seconds. These trials were done in both normal physical reality and in a virtual reality environment.

"This study contributes to the field of rehabilitation by providing evidence about how to manipulate task and environmental constraints to improve movement in persons with PD,” commented lead investigator Hui-Ing Ma. “Specifically, this study shows how to manipulate VR scenarios to improve movement speed in persons with PD, while at the same time depicting their movement characteristics in VR. Our study extends the previous findings of the moving target effect in physical reality to VR. Our findings suggest that with an appropriate choice of cueing speed, VR is a promising tool for offering visual motion stimuli to increase movement speed in persons with PD.”

The authors highlight three main findings. First, in both VR and physical reality, the PD group had longer movement time and lower peak velocity than the control group when reaching for a stationary ball at a self-determined maximum speed. Second, for both VR and physical reality, movement time was significantly shorter and peak velocity was higher in the faster cueing conditions. Third, when moving targets were provided, the PD group showed more improvement than the control group in movement time and peak velocity, thus reaching a performance level similar to that of the control group.

The article is “Comparison of Virtual Reality Versus Physical Reality on Movement Characteristics of Persons With Parkinson’s Disease: Effects of Moving Targets” by Ching-Yi Wang, MS, OT, Wen-Juh Hwang, MD, Jing-Jing Fang, PhD, Ching-Fan Sheu, PhD, Iat-Fai Leong, PhD, and Hui-Ing Ma, ScD, OT. It will appear in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 92, Issue 8 (August 2011), published by Elsevier. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2011.03.014
 

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Notes for Editors
Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Chris Pfister at 215-239-3266 orc.pfister@elsevier.com. To schedule an interview with the authors please contact Hui-Ing Ma, ScD, OT, Department of Occupational Therapy, National Cheng Kung University, at huingma@mail.ncku.edu.tw.

Authors
Ching-Yi Wang, MS, OT
Department of Occupational Therapy, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Wen-Juh Hwang, MD
Department of Neurology, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Jing-Jing Fang, PhD
Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Ching-Fan Sheu, PhD
Institute of Education, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Iat-Fai Leong, PhD
Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Hui-Ing Ma, ScD, OT
Department of Occupational Therapy and Institute of Allied Health Sciences, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

About the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
The journal publishes original articles that report on important trends and developments in physical medicine and rehabilitation and in the more interdisciplinary field of rehabilitation. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation brings readers authoritative information on the therapeutic utilization of physical and pharmaceutical agents in providing comprehensive care for persons with disabilities and chronically ill individuals. Archives began publication in 1920, publishes monthly, and is the official journal of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Its papers are cited more often than any other rehabilitation journal.  www.archives-pmr.org

About the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine
The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine serves people with disabling conditions by promoting rehabilitation research and facilitating information dissemination and the transfer of technology. We value rehabilitation research that promotes health, independence, productivity, and quality of life for people with disabling conditions. We are committed to research that is relevant to consumers, educates providers to deliver best practices, and supports advocacy efforts that ensure adequate public funding for our research endeavors.  www.acrm.org

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence,and ClinicalKey—and publishes over 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

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Media contact
Chris Pfister
Elsevier
+1 215-239-3266
c.pfister@elsevier.com