HC uses virtual reality on treatments for Parkinson and anxiety


It may be deceiving to think that virtual reality, also known as holography, is only used to boost videogames. The use of techniques and equipment to broaden the sensation of reality has reached the health area assisting in the treatment of patients with Parkinson disease and anxiety disorder.

Medical professionals have discovered new applications for virtual reality in treatments exposing patients to a controlled environment. Patients on stage 3 of Parkinson disease observed at Hospital da Clínicas (HC) in São Paulo have presented a “freezing” symptom, which happens when the person becomes unable to walk due to the gradual shrinking of the steps to the point of having to stop walking or even falling.    To restore the walking rhythm and the patients balance the hospital has been investing in magnified virtual reality glasses to be used during the physiotherapy sessions. In these sessions, the patients using the device see a 3D route, which moves as they walk, as if on a treadmill. Through the use of this manipulative mechanism, the patients are encouraged to use an alternative brain connection, receiving more stimulation and improving their movements. This rehab technique has exponentially evolved to assist in the recovery or therapy of other illnesses that affect patients physically or neurologically.

A research carried by the Institute of Psychiatry of USP (São Paulo University) shows that, in a group diagnosed with social phobia, there was an average reduction of 55% in the anxiety crisis thanks to the aid of virtual reality. To test the effectiveness of the technology, a computer program shows 3D images of some situations that could cause discomfort to the people in the group. According to a news article published on the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, the significant reduction on the crises frequency can be related to the fact that virtual reality exposes the patients to the same scene innumerable times until they feel comfortable, which is a great advantage when compared to the results achieved by the conventional methods.

Virtual reality offers a chance of immersion into a totally planned environment related to a similar experience in the real world. This technique has been increasingly used with exciting results, changing the treatment of physical and mental diseases as specialists continue to improve on this experience that mingles virtual reality with true facts.

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