'Virtual reality therapy improving lives of stroke survivors'

Stroke survivors might soon be able to go online to find a system to help improve their memories with virtual reality technology developed by New Zealand scientists.

IANS| Last Updated: Jan 26, 2015, 14:25 PM IST

Wellington: Stroke survivors might soon be able to go online to find a system to help improve their memories with virtual reality technology developed by New Zealand scientists.

Improving prospective memory -- the ability to remember to perform actions in the future -- was crucially important to everyday life and to the rehabilitation of stroke patients, University of Canterbury Professor Tanja Mitrovic said in a statement.

"This kind of memory is often impaired in stroke survivors and can interfere with independent living, as it can result in forgetting to take medication or remember something they had to do," Xinhua news agency quoted Mitrovic as saying Monday.

"It is a complex cognitive ability, which requires coordination of multiple cognitive abilities: spatial navigation, retrospective memory, attention and executive functioning."

The researchers developed a computer-based treatment based on visual imagery that taught participants how to remember time and event-based prospective memory tasks.

After the treatment, participants practiced their skills using videos first and later in a 3D virtual reality environment.

"We conducted a study which ended in October last year with 15 stroke survivors. Each participant had 10 individual sessions spread over 10 weeks. The analysis shows that the memory skills of the stroke patients we tested increased significantly," said Mitrovic.

The final goal was to make the training available freely over the internet to stroke survivors, enabling them to lead a better quality life and freeing some of them from round-the-clock care.

Stroke was the third largest killer disease in New Zealand and the major cause of serious adult disability.