Background: Unilateral spatial neglect (USN) is defined as impaired ability to attend and see on one side, and when present, it interferes seriously with daily life. These symptoms can exist for near and far spaces combined or independently, and it is important to provide effective intervention for near and far space neglect.
Objective: The purpose of this pilot study was to propose an immersive virtual reality (VR) rehabilitation program using a head-mounted display that is able to train both near and far space neglect, and to validate the immediate effect of the VR program in both near and far space neglect.
Methods: Ten USN patients underwent the VR program with a pre-post design and no control. In the virtual environment, we developed visual searching and reaching tasks using an immersive VR system. Behavioral inattention test (BIT) scores obtained pre- and immediate post-VR program were compared.
Results: BIT scores obtained pre- and post-VR program revealed that far space neglect but not near space neglect improved promptly after the VR program. This effect for far space neglect was observed in the cancelation task, but not in the line bisection task.
Conclusions: Positive effects of the immersive VR program for far space neglect are suggested by the results of the present pilot study. However, further studies with rigorous designs are needed to validate its clinical effectiveness.
Keywords: Stroke; attention; cognitive rehabilitation; hemiagnosia; higher brain dysfunction; unilateral spatial neglect; virtual reality.