Immersive VR platform may help identify, treat patients with Parkinson’s disease

August 17, 2022

1 min read


Source/Disclosures


Disclosures: The study was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Edward and Barbara Bell Family Chair.


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The Cleveland Clinic has developed an immersive virtual reality experience that combines traditional VR software with an omnidirectional treadmill to treat freezing of gait, which can accompany Parkinson’s disease.

Jay Alberts

“Freezing of gait is a major problem for [Parkinson’s disease] patients and it is poorly treated. One of the reasons for poor treatment outcomes is that we can’t regularly ‘see’ these freezing episodes, which make them difficult to treat,” Jay Alberts, PhDlead author of the VR platform study and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic’s Concussion Center, told Healio.



Source: Adobe Stock.
Source: Adobe Stock.

The treadmill, Infinadeck (Infinadeck Corp.), has a linear motion component as well as a rotary motion aspect that moves in conjunction with the surface of the treadmill, according to a press release from the Cleveland Clinic.

Traditional VR headsets can help those with neurocognitive disabilities. However, patients often report experiencing nausea when using the devices, according to the release. By producing constant linear and rotary adjustments, the platform overcomes the locomotion problem that causes the nausea.

“This system and its data could be used to titrate medication or deep brain stimulation parameters,” Alberts said. “Rather than relying on subjective clinical assessments that do not evaluate real-world motor function, we could use objective outcomes from this system.”

Alberts and colleagues began constructing different virtual environments for patients that replicated conditions and situations that Parkinson’s patients reported often difficult, according to the release. One environment developed was a virtual grocery store through which a patient would have to navigate while wearing a VR headset and walking on the treadmill.

“If we can elicit freezing [of gait] in the [virtual] Grocery store, we can then see them and start to treat them,” Alberts told Healio.

This new technology has the potential to identify earlier patients in the disease course, potentially leading to “more opportunities to slow disease progression through pharmacological approaches or even physical therapy and exercise,” Alberts said.

“With extended training one would expect that walking patterns would improve and that patients’ ability to dual-task would also improve,” Alberts said.

Reference:

New VR platform fuses physical and virtual worlds in Parkinson’s Disease and beyond. https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/new-vr-platform-fuses-physical-and-virtual-worlds-in-parkinsons-disease-and-beyond/. Published July 28, 2022; Accessed Aug. 17, 2022.

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