The doctoral thesis confirmed the effectiveness of computer-based and virtual...
The doctoral thesis confirmed the effectiveness of computer-based and virtual reality programmes in the treatment of cognitive and social impairments.
Source: Marju Himma / Estonian Public Bodcast

VR supports the treatment of children with brain injury

Use of a computer environment is a new and fast-developing field in paediatric neurorehabilitation. The first longitudinal study in Estonia on the cognitive and social rehabilitation of children with acquired brain injury was completed at the University of Tartu, confirming the efficiency of using computer-based programmes and virtual reality for improving children's attention, visuospatial abilities and social skills.

According to a researcher at the University of Tartu Faculty of Medicine, Marianne Saard, neurorehabilitation is a systematic intervention designed to compensate for or remediate cognitive and/or behavioural impairments caused by brain injury, to improve coping with daily life, increase skills to do what is desired and required, but which is difficult due to the impairments caused by the injuries.

In her doctoral thesis “Modern Cognitive and Social Intervention Techniques in Paediatric Neurorehabilitation for Children with Acquired Brain Injury” Saard studied one of the most novel possibilities for paediatric neurorehabilitation available today: use of a computer-based environment and virtual reality. “It is a method that is engaging and safe for children and allows them to practice the skills they need, from attention, space awareness and memory, to manual skills and to develop communication skills,” noted Saard.

The positive effect of neurorehabilitation in the treatment of cognitive and social deficits in children with acquired brain injuries has been proved by many earlier studies, and was also confirmed by the first longitudinal study in this field in Estonia conducted by Saard. Within the doctoral thesis and under the supervision of dr Anneli Kolk, an associate professor in paediatric neuropsychology at the University of Tartu, Saard and the research team developed research-based intervention protocols and new technology-based rehabilitation methods for the specific treatment of impaired functions in children.

The study involved 59 children with a diagnosis of epilepsy, traumatic brain injury or tic disorder and a control group of 47 healthy children, all children aged 8 to 13 years. The children in the study group completed 10 training sessions, and were tested before and after each of the sessions.

For the rehabilitation of attention and visuospatial impairments, intervention protocols were created based on the ForamenRehab computer programme. A structured social rehabilitation model was developed for improving children’s social skills, and to test the efficiency of the model, a rehabilitation process was conducted in a virtual reality environment and on two multitouch tables: the Snowflake Multiteach Tabletop and the Diamond Touch Table. “During ten training sessions, children developed their cooperation skills by solving complex situations in a virtual environment and improved their social skills through analysis and role play,” described Saard.

The doctoral thesis confirmed the effectiveness of computer-based and virtual reality programmes in the treatment of cognitive and social impairments. “After trainings, children’s performance significantly improved in two attention components – complex attention and tracking – and three spatial perception components: visual-constructive skills, visual attention and visuospatial perception. Furthermore, a follow-up assessment 1.3 years later showed the sustained, positive effect of the training. The social communication components were also significantly improved.”

According to Saard, feedback from the children and their parents showed that the skills acquired through training carried over to every-day life – children's academic performance and behaviour improved. “100% compliance indicated that children were motivated to participate in trainings and that computer-based rehabilitation is suitable for the treatment of children’s cognitive and social deficit,” confirmed Saard.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

VR study: our visual world of color is incorrect

VR study: our visual world of color is incorrect

A study finds that people are aware of surprisingly limited color in their peripheral vision; much of our sense of a colorful visual world is likely constructed by our brain.

Is virtual reality not suited to visual memory?

Is virtual reality not suited to visual memory?

Researchers have found that virtual reality may interfere with visual memory.

Barking up the wrong tree with virtual reality

Barking up the wrong tree with virtual reality

Researcher used virtual reality to trick 20 patients with with intermittent arterial claudication, and discovered that they could suddenly walk much further.

Virtual “moonwalk” for science

Virtual “moonwalk” for science

In order to orient ourselves in space, and to find our way around, we form mental maps of our surroundings. Scientists used VR to detect distortions in our spatial memory.

Brain may not need body movements to learn virtual spaces

Brain may not need body movements to learn virtual spaces

A new study enhances our understanding of how the brain learns in virtual reality.

Using game tech to treat cognitively impaired children in Africa

Using game tech to treat cognitively impaired children in Africa

Using a game, researchers are rehabilitating children who suffer from cognitive impairment after surviving life-threatening diseases such as malaria and HIV.

Virtual treasure hunt shows brain maps time sequence of memories

Virtual treasure hunt shows brain maps time sequence of memories

Combining learning in virtual reality and brain scans, researchers describes how a temporal map of memories is created in the entorhinal cortex.

VR could improve lives of stroke patients

VR could improve lives of stroke patients

VR could be used to benefit stroke patients, thanks to a research partnership featuring a University, an NHS Trust and a company specialising in 3D technologies.

A wireless chip shines light on the brain

A wireless chip shines light on the brain

Researchers have developed a chip that is powered wirelessly and can be surgically implanted to read neural signals and stimulate the brain with both light and electrical current.

Popular articles