(HealthDay News) – A virtual reality platform allows stroke patients with impaired arm and hand movement to improve movement accuracy by moving virtual hands in coordination with their thoughts, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2013 Scientific Sessions, held from Nov. 16–19 in Dallas.

On six hemiparetic stroke survivors, Alexander Doud, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues tested a three-dimensional virtual reality platform that showed photorealistic human hands. The patients viewed the hands through three-dimensional glasses, and the hands moved in coordination with the patient’s thoughts and overlaid the patient’s own hands.

The researchers found that patients achieved accuracies as high as 81% when using the virtual hands to perform a binary classification task consisting of reaching left or right. Skills progressed in as little as three, two-hour experimental sessions. Analysis of electroencephalograms showed that the virtual reality platform promoted a consistent and sustained motor imagery signal compared with a standard cursor control task.

“By creating a training platform that requires low caregiver overhead, the system could serve as an affordable rehabilitation option in the management of stroke,” Doud and colleagues conclude.

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