Inclusion of VR technology in research on cognitive rehabilitation and care for multiple sclerosis

In a recent article, scientists at the Kessler Foundation advocated the integration of virtual reality (VR) technology into cognitive rehabilitation research in multiple sclerosis (MS). They presented a conceptual framework supporting VR as an adjuvant to traditional cognitive rehabilitation and exercise training for MS, with the theory that VR could enhance the effects of traditional rehabilitation therapies by increasing sensory input and promoting multisensory integration and processing.

MS and exercise researchers Carly LA Wender, PhD, John DeLuca, PhD, and Brian M. Sandroff, PhD, wrote the review, “Developing the rationale for incorporating virtual reality into cognitive rehabilitation and training methods for managing cognitive dysfunction in MS,” which was published in open access on April 3, 2022 by NeuroScience as part of the Special Issue Cognitive Impairment and Neuropsychiatric Dysfunctions in Multiple Sclerosis

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Current pharmacological therapies for MS are ineffective for cognitive dysfunction, a common consequence of MS that affects the daily lives of many people. This lack of efficacy underscores the need to consider other approaches to manage these disabling cognitive impairments.

The inclusion of VR technology in rehabilitation research and care for MS has the potential not only to improve cognition, but also to facilitate the transfer of those cognitive benefits to improvements in daily functioning, according to Brian Sandroff, PhD, senior research scientist in the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research at the Kessler Foundation. “With VR, we can significantly increase the engagement and volume of sensory input,” he envisions. “And by promoting multisensory integration and processing, VR may enhance the effects of the two most promising non-pharmacological treatments: cognitive rehabilitation and exercise.”

Virtual environments are flexible and varied, allowing researchers to control the range and progression of cognitive challenges, with the potential for greater adaptations and stronger intervention effects. VR also allows for the incorporation of cognitive rehabilitation strategies into exercise training sessions, which may support a more direct approach to improve specific cognitive domains through exercise prescriptions. The application of VR to stroke research has shown greater improvement in motor outcomes compared to traditional therapy, as well as greater neural activation in the affected area of ​​the brain, suggesting greater gains may be made over time. persist.

dr. Sandroff emphasized the largely conceptual benefits of using VR to treat cognitive impairment in individuals with MS. “More clinical research is needed to explore the efficacy of combination of VR with cognitive rehabilitation and/or exercise training, and the impact on the daily functioning of individuals with MS,” concluded Dr. Sandroff. “The conceptual framework we outline includes examples of ways in which immersive and interactive VR can be incorporated into clinical MS trials that will provide the basis for larger randomized clinical trials.”


Reference magazine:

Wender, CLA, et al. (2022) Developing rationale for incorporating virtual reality into cognitive rehabilitation and exercise training methods for coping with cognitive impairment in MS. NeuroSci.

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