Is virtual reality the next big thing for improving motor function in cerebral palsy patients?
Cerebral palsy can negatively affect movements, balance, posture, and coordination.
Luckily, the brain has neuroplasticity and can rewire itself to recover functions affected by cerebral palsy through massed practice.
Compared to traditional physical therapy, virtual reality takes the monotony out of repeatedly performing the same exercises.
Can this fun, innovative technology boost motor function in individuals with cerebral palsy? Let’s find out!
5 Benefits of Virtual Reality for Cerebral Palsy
There are many benefits to using virtual reality to improve motor function in children with cerebral palsy, including:
1. Improves Motivation
Virtual reality stimulates the visual and auditory senses to encourage users to interact with the virtual environment and perform functional activities.
Generally, children with cerebral palsy perform better using a virtual reality system than with conventional physical therapy.
This is because children need to be entertained to maintain interest. The gaming aspect of virtual reality allows children to perform the same task repeatedly without getting bored.
It encourages, motivates, and distracts children so that they can perform the repetitions they need to promote neuroplasticity.
2. Boosts Confidence
It can be intimidating to try things in front of people only to fail. Virtual reality allows you to escape your day-to-day life and experiment.
Children tend to get more creative and inquisitive when their environment encourages it.
Virtual reality can create an environment where nothing is impossible. Children can practice real-world tasks without feeling restricted by reality.
This can boost their confidence and hopefully promote a more hands-on approach to real-world tasks.
There are clinic versions of virtual reality technologies, but there are also commercial versions that can be used at home.
If it’s difficult to get your child exercising at home, this may be an investment worth making.
Inducing neurological change requires thousands of repetitions, which you’re unlikely to get in a single PT session.
Therefore, it’s essential to practice at home as well to optimize motor improvements.
It can be discouraging when a game is too difficult for your child’s functional abilities.
Virtual reality technologies allow for the difficulty level of a game to be easily adjusted to provide the perfect amount of challenge for each individual.
This helps accommodate your child’s current ability level and future progress so that they remain engaged and motivated.
5. Provides Visual and Auditory Feedback
Virtual reality systems can provide immediate auditory and visual feedback.
This helps your child gage their performance and adjust when necessary.
Why Virtual Reality For Cerebral Palsy Patients Works
So what’s the secret behind the success of virtual reality?
Escapism. Virtual reality invites you to escape your day-to-day life and practice movement in the form of gaming.
The possibilities are endless with virtual reality because the same game can be played in a bunch of different scenarios.
Switching up the visual and auditory stimuli allows for a completely new experience.
With a single system, you can play multiple games with various difficulty levels, which allows you to be engaged and challenged even as your skills progress.
The ultimate goal of rehabilitative virtual reality is to get individuals with CP moving as much as possible to promote neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity works through repetition. The more you repeat a movement, the more the brain perceives a demand for it, and the more it will rewire and strengthen neural pathways to improve.
Is Virtual Reality More Effective In Children with Cerebral Palsy than Adults?
Younger children have higher levels of neuroplasticity and are therefore able to learn new skills and rewire their brains quicker than adults.
However, it’s important to understand that regardless of age, the brain can always adapt because neuroplasticity never entirely goes away.
Virtual reality is ideal for children because they often don’t have the willpower or insight to understand why they need to perform so many repetitions.
Nevertheless, virtual reality is not limited to children. Even adults can use this fun, interactive experience to improve their motor functions.
Understanding Virtual Reality for Cerebral Palsy
Remember, it’s all about getting those repetitions in.
Virtual reality simply makes it easier to practice movements and tasks repeatedly.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand how virtual reality can help individuals with cerebral palsy improve their mobility.
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