Virtual reality is not just good for games and movies, it can aid rehabilitation by making errors seem larger (and easier to correct)

Motor rehabilitation programs that are based on low-cost, commercial gaming devices can be effective in improving upper-limb function. One of the reasons is increased rehabilitation time due to the added enjoyment of gaming whilst exercising. Now with Immersive virtual reality (VR) technology, home-based motor rehabilitation programs have the potential to become even more useful as they can be used to mimic real life environments and thus make it easier to transfer skills to every-day life. Immersive VR allows for the manipulation of sensory information to either increase engagement or to aid the extent of adaptation and improvement which takes place.

One technique that has received attention is error augmentation (EA). This basically means emphasizing small error to encourage detection and ultimately correction. People with neuromotor disabilities may not be sensitive to small errors and as such EA can be used to make these small errors noticeable, prompting corrective actions. Thus far, studies involving EA have only been performed in single limb reaching tasks. However, rehabilitation programs involving the simultaneous use of both hands are effective  because when one side of the body is weaker, the stronger hand can guide the weaker hand.

Therefore, in this study, an immersive VR program was studied where error augmentation (EA) was used during dual limb reaching. Twelve typically developed (TD) adolescents and 5 children clinically diagnosed with unilateral or hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy (CP) were tested. Participants moved virtual objects (moving a sausage to a hotdog bun) while wearing a VR headset. EA was used to emphasize the asymmetry between the two hands. The TD participants actually had an imposed visual asymmetry between their limbs which they were required to fix (despite feeling them being symmetrical). Participants completed 2 sets of trials, with and without EA applied, and underwent pre- and post-training testing. Training with EA generally worked to better support symmetry and adaptation in both groups. This led to the conclusion that EA with immersive VR technologies for rehabilitation have the potential to be effective and fun rehabilitation methods.