Scientists have developed what they claim is a “virtual reality” treadmill which can trick people into believing that they are moving more slowly than they actually are.
According to them, the technology could be of great help to stroke sufferers across the world by encouraging them to move faster on the treadmill, which in turn will speed up their recovery.
“The virtual system encourages patients to walk more quickly and for longer, almost without them realising it. It is not just that they are distracted from the pain; by moving faster than they realise, their body actually feels it less. We’re effectively fooling the brain and cheating the body.
“It’s a lot more fun than traditional rehab and it can actually facilitate a much faster recovery. Our test subjects are usually surprised when I tell them they’ve improved by up to 20%,” lead scientist Wendy Powell was quoted by the Independent as saying.
In fact, moving images on a giant screen respond to patients’ efforts on an adapted treadmill. And using a variety of different settings, including urban and rural landscapes, the device creates a virtual world for the patient to “walk” through on the treadmill.
This immersion also acts as a distraction, and early research has already shown patients using it have a decreased perception of pain, according to the researchers at Portsmouth University.
It may be mentioned that clinical trials on patients are currently taking place in collaboration with Canada-based McGill University and early results are also said to be very encouraging. Sixty-one-year-old stroke sufferer Andy Long, who has been using the technology as part of his rehab, hails it as “magic”.
“The vast majority of stroke survivors cannot use a normal treadmill because they are not in control.
Many can only hold on with one hand, making it almost impossible. Walking is the best possible exercise for their bodies, and this system means it could all become available to them,” he said.
Sources: The Times Of India