Virtual environments for motor rehabilitation: review

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2005 Jun;8(3):187-211; discussion 212-9. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2005.8.187.


In this paper, the current "state of the art" for virtual reality (VR) applications in the field of motor rehabilitation is reviewed. The paper begins with a brief overview of available equipment options. Next, a discussion of the scientific rationale for use of VR in motor rehabilitation is provided. Finally, the major portion of the paper describes the various VR systems that have been developed for use with patients, and the results of clinical studies reported to date in the literature. Areas covered include stroke rehabilitation (upper and lower extremity training, spatial and perceptual-motor training), acquired brain injury, Parkinson's disease, orthopedic rehabilitation, balance training, wheelchair mobility and functional activities of daily living training, and the newly developing field of telerehabilitation. Four major findings emerge from these studies: (1) people with disabilities appear capable of motor learning within virtual environments; (2) movements learned by people with disabilities in VR transfer to real world equivalent motor tasks in most cases, and in some cases even generalize to other untrained tasks; (3) in the few studies (n = 5) that have compared motor learning in real versus virtual environments, some advantage for VR training has been found in all cases; and (4) no occurrences of cybersickness in impaired populations have been reported to date in experiments where VR has been used to train motor abilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons*
  • Exercise
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Orthopedics / methods
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Software
  • Spatial Behavior
  • Telemetry / methods
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Wheelchairs