Virtual immersion for post-stroke hand rehabilitation therapy

Ann Biomed Eng. 2015 Feb;43(2):467-77. doi: 10.1007/s10439-014-1218-y. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Impairment of upper extremity function is a common outcome following stroke, often to the detriment of lifestyle and employment opportunities. While the upper extremity is a natural target for therapy, treatment may be hampered by limitations in baseline capability as lack of success may discourage arm and hand use. We developeda virtual reality (VR) system in order to encourage repetitive task practice. This system combined an assistive glove with a novel VR environment. A set of exercises for this system was developed to encourage specific movements. Six stroke survivors with chronic upper extremity hemiparesis volunteered to participate in a pilot study in which they completed 18 one-hour training sessions with the VR system. Performance with the system was recorded across the 18 training sessions. Clinical evaluations of motor control were conducted at three time points: prior to initiation of training, following the end of training, and 1 month later. Subjects displayed significant improvement on performance of the virtual tasks over the course of the training, although for the clinical outcome measures only lateral pinch showed significant improvement. Future expansion to multi-user virtual environments may extend the benefits of this system for stroke survivors with hemiparesis by furthering engagement in the rehabilitation exercises.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arm / physiology
  • Exercise Therapy / instrumentation
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Hand / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paresis / etiology
  • Paresis / physiopathology
  • Paresis / rehabilitation*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • User-Computer Interface*