Virtual reality in cognitive and motor rehabilitation: facts, fiction and fallacies

Expert Rev Med Devices. 2018 Feb;15(2):107-117. doi: 10.1080/17434440.2018.1425613. Epub 2018 Jan 10.


Introduction: Over recent decades many researchers and clinicians have started to use Virtual Reality (VR) as a new technology for implementing innovative rehabilitation treatments in cognitive and motor domains. However, the expression 'VR' has often also been improperly used to refer to video games. Further, VR efficacy, often confused with that of video-game exercises, is still debated.

Areas covered: In this review, we provide the scientific rationale for the advantages of using VR systems in rehabilitation and investigate whether the VR could really be a promising technique for the future of rehabilitation of patients, or if it is just an entertainment for scientists. In addition, we describe some of the most used devices in VR with their potential advantages for research and provide an overview of the recent evidence and meta-analyses in rehabilitation.

Expert commentary: We highlight the efficacy and fallacies of VR in neurorehabilitation and discuss the important factors emerging from the use of VR, including the sense of presence and the embodiment over a virtual avatar, in developing future applications in cognitive and motor rehabilitation.

Keywords: Virtual reality; body ownership and agency; cognitive and motor rehabilitation; immersion and interaction; sense of presence; serious exergame.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Motor Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Neurological Rehabilitation
  • Robotics
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods
  • Video Games
  • Virtual Reality*