Hemispatial neglect is a common impairment that patients face after having a stroke in the right cerebral hemisphere. The condition is characterized by an inability to process and perceive the left visual field, even though both eyes continue to function normally. It is often possible to recover from hemispatial neglect— physical therapy treatments include promoting visual scanning strategies and sustaining visual attention in the affected portion of the visual field. Unfortunately, therapy sessions are short, the exercises involved begin to feel arbitrary and tedious quickly, and patients commonly don’t adhere to the at-home therapy schedule prescribed to them.
Following a needs assessment with therapists and researchers, the team developed a prototype for two VR games, which patients can play using an Oculus Rift VR headset. A Leap Motion camera is mounted on top to track hand and arm movements. The games encourage the same visual exercises achieved by conventional therapy, but the novelty of the immersive games makes the exercises significantly more engaging. The digital nature of the games also allowed the team to develop performance metrics, which give therapists a window into their patients’ progress at home. By gamifying the physical therapy regime for spatial neglect, the team has demonstrated the potential of applying VR technology to physical therapy.
The project is complete.