Medical College of Georgia is reporting that its researchers have devised a high tech way for stroke patients to regain their driving skills. The MCG research team has conducted a study on a group of patients that were taken for a ride on a 20-mile high-fidelity driving simulator, and the group achieved some pretty impressive results:
Patients who received simulator training were also almost twice as likely as stroke patients without the training to pass an official driving test at the end of a five-week training period, according to Dr. Abiodun Akinwuntan, a Medical College of Georgia physical therapy instructor and the lead researcher on the study published in the Sept. 27 issue of Neurology.
“Traditionally, to help patients learn to drive again, therapists have relied on conventional methods like paper-and-pencil-based training and sometimes an on-road training method,” Dr. Akinwuntan says. “I have never been a proponent of the on-road method because it can be unsafe. Healthy drivers find the roads dangerous enough.”
For training, patients drive in a specially equipped car on a course projected on a large screen in front of them. Mistakes are monitored both by computer and an observing evaluator. Patients using simulator training were more likely both to pass the driver’s test and to retain the skill level achieved in training.
The possibilities to apply simulator training to other areas are endless, Dr. Akinwuntan says. For example, the simulator could be used to help determine the types of driving skills affected at different stages of Parkinson’s disease and how interventions like deep brain stimulation help people overcome some of the problems.
The press release…