CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Michael J. Laszlo

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee

Committee Member

Mervyn Curtis

Abstract

This study investigated the use of virtual reality (VR) technology in ambulatory training for post-acute stroke patients, and sought to determine whether skills gained in virtual environments transfer to real-world conditions. Patients with stroke typically suffer dysfunctions that impair the complex set of motions involved in walking. The limited amount of therapy and resources offered by the current health care system does not provide the frequency and intensity of training needed for functional recovery of the walking skills in patients following stroke assaults. This study, therefore, developed and investigated an alternative intervention technique capable of providing the frequency and intensity needed for improving the walking skills in post-acute stroke patients. The study also helped clarify the controversies surrounding the issue of whether skills gained in the virtual environment transfer to the real world.

The research study employed the single case design method to report the results observed from four post-acute stroke patients who trained on a computer-based therapy program for about half an hour per day, five days a week, for a period of four consecutive weeks. The patients performed a VR exercise using a head-mounted display, and their gait variables were analyzed to determine the usefulness of virtual reality technology in ambulatory training for post-acute stroke patients.

A follow up examination conducted one week after the intervention sought to determine whether the patients could perform the skills learned on the VR-based intervention program in the real world. The results of the research showed that all the patients improved on their gait parameters and could walk better after the computer-based intervention program. An observational gait analysis carried out showed that the skills gained in the virtual environment transferred to real-world conditions.

The study contributes to the current effort to provide wider access to therapeutic intervention techniques using computer technology, and helps to further resolve the disputed issue of whether skills gained in the virtual environment transfer to real-world conditions. Researchers and professionals in the fields of rehabilitation engineering, physical therapy, physiology, and other fields concerned with the study of human movement, could find the outcome of this work useful in improving their professional practice. Other clinicians could also use the results of this work in formulating realistic treatment goals in problem areas involving physical therapy.

  Link to NovaCat

Share

COinS