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Sep 18, 2007

Virtual Reality applications in improving postural control

Virtual Reality Applications in Improving Postural Control and Minimizing Falls.

Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1(1):2694-2697

Authors: McConville KV, Virk S

Maintaining balance under all conditions is an absolute requirement for humans. Orientation in space and balance maintenance requires inputs from the vestibular, the visual, the proprioceptive and the somatosensory systems. All the cues coming from these systems are integrated by the central nervous system (CNS) to employ different strategies for orientation and balance. How the CNS integrates all the inputs and makes cognitive decisions about balance strategies has been an area of interest for biomedical engineers for a long time. More interesting is the fact that in the absence of one or more cues, or when the input from one of the sensors is skewed, the CNS "adapts" to the new environment and gives less weight to the conflicting inputs [1]. The focus of this paper is a review of different strategies and models put forward by researchers to explain the integration of these sensory cues. Also, the paper compares the different approaches used by young and old adults in maintaining balance. Since with age the musculoskeletal, visual and vestibular system deteriorates, the older subjects have to compensate for these impaired sensory cues for postural stability. The paper also discusses the applications of virtual reality in rehabilitation programs not only for balance in the elderly but also in occupational falls. Virtual reality has profound applications in the field of balance rehabilitation and training because of its relatively low cost. Studies will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual reality training in modifying the head and eye movement strategies, and determine the role of these responses in the maintenance of balance.

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