Balance and gait impairments are associated with reduced mobility, independence, and quality of life and an increased risk for falls in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).1 Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs have been found to improve these and other outcomes in this population. However, some patients may be unable to access such programs for various reasons and others may not be motivated to engage in conventional training, underscoring the need for alternate training modalities.
Emerging research shows promise with the use of virtual reality (VR) for motor and cognitive rehabilitation in MS. “Studies suggest that VR can produce benefits in balance, gait, and mobility in persons with MS, and might also have some cognitive benefits — most studies have shown it to be better than no intervention, but not necessarily superior to conventional gait training or physical therapy,” said Barbara S Giesser, MD, professor of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, clinical director of the MS program there, and fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. In addition, VR “has been shown to enhance conventional locomotor training, with a combination of VR and locomotor training conferring better results than locomotor training alone,” she told Neurology Advisor.
VR training may use video game consoles or interactive “exergaming” systems such as the Xbox 360® Kinect. A range of software programs and approaches may be used and interventions may be home based or delivered on-site at treatment centers. “From a motor learning approach, virtual reality offers the possibility of high-intensity, task-oriented, multisensorial feedback training,” according to researchers who published a systematic review and meta-analysis in 2018 in Clinical Rehabilitation.1