Virtual reality helps paraplegics recreate the sensation of walking

Deepak Gupta June 30, 2022
Updated 2022/06/30 at 9:45 PM

Once again, technology has allied with medicine and Virtual Reality has come into action for another successful result. In a promising project, a team is studying a new way to help patients with spinal cord injuries – paraplegics – regain the sensation of walking, through the system.

Miguel Pais-Vieira is Portuguese and is part of the team behind the study.

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In a new report published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers are studying the introduction of highly realistic and multimodal Virtual Reality signals so that paraplegic patients can regain the sensation of walking. This is possible, tricking the brain.

Miguel Pais-Vieira, researcher at the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Aveiro

Miguel Pais-Vieira, researcher at the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Aveiro

The Portuguese Aveiro University is represented on the team by Miguel Pais-Vieira, a researcher at the Institute of Biomedicine. According to this, a person's brain activity is being recorded as they walk. Then, after that information is encoded using statistical algorithms, the team sends the "order to the avatar that is in the Virtual Reality scenario and it starts walking".

The team's proposal involves an interface linked to the patient's brain that combines Virtual Reality with thermal and tactile feedback. At the end of the tests, the patients revealed that they felt the movement of their legs as if it were their own, in addition to reporting not feeling any kind of pain or discomfort.

As can be seen in the image above, the patient used thermal sleeves, having witnessed a more realistic sensation. In this way, it is possible to feel temperatures and perceive environments.

The brain begins to correlate multiple cues, leaving the user with the feeling that the avatar's body is part of him and is controlled by him.

Miguel Pais-Vieira explained, adding that “the more real the experience is for the brain, the more neuroplasticity there seems to be”, increasing the possibility of rehabilitation of the nervous system.

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