Scientists in New Zealand have developed a virtual reality technology for survivors of stroke. The user can go online and use the technology to improve their memory.
"Stroke is the second most common cause of death worldwide and a common cause of disability in adults in developed countries. Stroke is largely preventable, yet about 9000 New Zealanders every year have a stroke. Every day about 24 New Zealanders have a stroke and only half of these are able to return to full time work after six months," said Associate Professor Huckabee.
There are an estimated 60,000 stroke survivors in New Zealand. Many are disabled and need significant daily support. However, stroke recovery can continue throughout life.
The ideal rehabilitation for patients with stroke is, improving prospective memory and the ability to remember to perform actions in the future, said Professor Tanja Mitrovic University of Canterbury.
This kind of memory is often impaired in stroke survivors and can interfere with independent living, as it can result in forgetting to take medication or remember something they had to do.
The researchers developed a computer-based treatment based on visual imagery that taught participants how to remember time and event-based prospective memory tasks.
After the treatment, participants practiced their skills using videos first and later in a 3D virtual reality environment.
"We conducted a study which ended in October last year with 15 stroke survivors. Each participant had 10 individual sessions spread over 10 weeks. The analysis shows that the memory skills of the stroke patients we tested increased significantly," said Mitrovic.
The final goal was to make the training available freely over the internet to stroke survivors, enabling them to lead a better quality life and freeing some of them from round-the-clock care.