In research that is said to be the first of its kind, researchers at the University of Sydney are combining MRI and virtual reality (VR) to study a phenomenon that occurs frequently in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
“Freezing of gait” (FOG) is an effect found in a majority of Parkinson’s patients. Those experiencing FOG suddenly find themselves unable to move their feet when approaching narrow doorways and passages, which often causes them to fall.
The University of Sydney study uses a VR environment consisting of a series of corridors and doorways. Subjects navigate the VR space using foot pedals while lying down in an MRI scanner that concurrently images the brain.
The results have been extremely promising, as Dr. Simon Lewis, director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, describes:
“Our preliminary results show that patients with FOG have a delay in their stepping pattern when passing though doorways in the VR. We didn’t see this in patients without FOG or in healthy control subjects,” Dr Lewis said.
“Furthermore, we have been able to correlate the amount of freezing experienced in VR with that observed during physical assessment in the clinic,” he said.
“Finally, as VR allows patients to walk whilst lying down we have even been able to use our novel brain scanning technique to see what is going on in the brain during freezing episodes.”
Article from the University of Sydney: World-first virtual reality study to trial new Parkinson’s treatment…