As part of the study, the scientists from Aarhus University and the Hammel Neurorehabilitation and Research Centre randomly selected 120 people over the age of 60 who had suffered a stroke within 12 weeks.
As the study focused on improving hand and arm movement, all the participants had mild to severe muscle weakness or impairment in their wrists, hands or upper arms.
During the three month study the patients were divided into two groups, one that underwent standard physical and occupational therapy and the other one VR training that was adapted for their rehabilitation.
Over four to five hour-long training sessions per week for four weeks, the VR group used a screen and gloves with sensors to play different games that incorporated arm, hand and finger movements.
All of the participants’ arm and hand functioning were tested after training ended, and then again at the end of the study to compare how they had improved compared to start of the study.
“Both groups had substantial improvement in their functioning, but there was no difference between the two groups in the results. These results suggest that either type of training could be used, depending on what the patient prefers,” said study author, Dr Iris Brunner.
“VR training may be a motivating alternative for people to use as a supplement to their standard therapy after a stroke. Future studies could also look at whether people could use VR therapy remotely from their homes, which could lessen the burden and cost of traveling to a medical centre for standard therapy,” concluded Dr Brunner.