A recent trial conducted by the Cleveland Clinic has shown that an augmented-reality headset can be an effective tool for improving posture and gait in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The findings were published in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.
Augmented reality, or AR, allows users to interact with digital programs projected into their surroundings. The trial utilized the “Dual-task augmented Reality Treatment” (DART), which involved using the Microsoft HoloLens2 AR headset to engage patients in dual-task training (DTT). DTT is a series of tasks designed to simultaneously stimulate the brain and body.
DTT aims to address the balance and stability deficits commonly experienced by individuals with Parkinson’s disease, which can lead to falls and difficulty moving. The therapy involves activities that challenge the brain and body, such as walking while listening to an audiobook or talking while grocery shopping.
In the trial, the DART program replaced the need for a human therapist with a digital avatar named Donna. Patients wearing the AR headset saw Donna in their field of vision and received instructions and guidance from her. The headset tracked their movements and responses, collecting data for clinicians to review and use for future sessions.
This digital platform, which can even measure tiny alterations in a patient’s stride, has the potential to standardize and implement DTT more widely. The trial demonstrated that both the AR headset and in-person therapist-led DTT produced similar improvements in gait and postural stability.
Some examples of DTT activities include stepping forward on even numbers, stepping back on odd numbers, waving when a light is green, and crouching when it’s red. Patients also engaged in tasks that involved remembering numbers while walking or navigating a digital obstacle course.
The trial involved just under 50 participants and compared the outcomes of those who received therapy from an in-person therapist versus those who used the DART platform. Both groups showed comparable and clinically significant improvement, with high retention rates across both groups.
The goal of DART is not to replace physical therapists but to make DTT more accessible and available to a wider range of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. This technology aims to remove obstacles and make it easier for patients to improve their daily lives by incorporating DTT into their treatment regimen.
– Cleveland Clinic
– Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair