Walking into a Virtual World: A Pilot Randomized Trial using Virtual Reality and Omnidirectional Treadmill Training for People with Chronic Stroke
Cognitive function (thinking, memory, and concentration), balance, and walking problems affect the lives of many stroke survivors. Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment that can be explored in 360 degrees. VR has been introduced to the field of rehabilitation to promote improvements in cognitive function, walking ability, and balance. A new type of treadmill technology called an omnidirectional treadmill has emerged that allows for movement in all directions and is compatible with VR technology. The largest advantage of combining omnidirectional treadmill training with VR is to allow the user to challenge their walking and balance in a safe environment. Some previous research has indicated that VR may be more enjoyable and engaging for stroke survivors than traditional exercise.
The purpose of this pilot study is to determine whether VR combined with omnidirectional treadmill training is enjoyable and feasible for stroke survivors who had a stroke more than 6 months previously and have problems with walking. Our secondary objectives are to estimate how much cognitive function, brain activation, walking ability, and balance change after 12 weeks of omnidirectional treadmill training with virtual reality in comparison with a traditional exercise program. We will recruit 30 participants from rehabilitation facilities, clinics, and stroke recovery clubs in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Participants will be randomly assigned to two groups: the intervention group will participate in VR on the omnidirectional treadmill 3 times per week for 45 minutes for 12 weeks total, while the control group will participate in a traditional exercise program consisting of strengthening and walking activities for the same amount of time. If successful, this affordable and accessible technology could be used to improve rehabilitation for stroke survivors and may change our understanding of how the brain works during real-world activities like walking and talking.
Adria Quigley , Dalhousie University