VR assists doctors to detect balance issues in multiple sclerosis patients

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

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A team of researchers have established a test using virtual reality (VR) to detect the risk of falling in patients with multiple sclerosis, despite them not knowing about any walking deficiencies in themselves.

The idea behind the use of VR, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, is that patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be compensating for walking deficiencies by depending on their visual abilities. Such patients may think that their walking is fine, but in reality they are still at risk of falls. For the study, the researchers hired 14 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), along with patients under the age of 55 and those who had not experienced an MS relapse within 30 days prior to the test.

After getting the results in hand, the team concluded that VR simulation revealed differences in walking balance that went undetected during normal, unperturbed walking. Based on these findings, the researchers are now developing the technology to be used as a general diagnostic tool to identify balance impairments, which could be inexpensive and reduce the number of falls and associated injuries among MS patients.

Plenty of innovation is taking place in the healthcare field through VR. Last month, a GlobalData report stated that barriers to widespread use in healthcare are beginning to fall as both VR and AR technologies progress over time. The report further noted that though both are in their early stage of adoption, they will be used in education, image-guided treatment, treating neuropsychological conditions, as well as in rehabilitation. UK-based Oxford VR, which raised $12.5m in series A funding, will expand its evidence-based and scalable automated VR therapy solutions for behavioural health issues across the US.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

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