Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



TECH SPACE
Can virtual reality help us prevent falls in the elderly and others?
by Staff Writers
Chapel Hill NC (SPX) Apr 24, 2017


File image.

Every year, falls lead to hospitalization or death for hundreds of thousands of elderly Americans. Standard clinical techniques generally cannot diagnose balance impairments before they lead to falls. But researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University have found evidence that virtual reality (VR) could be a big help - not only for detecting balance impairments early, but perhaps also for reversing those impairments and preventing falls.

In a study published in Nature Scientific Reports, a research team led by Jason R. Franz, PhD, assistant professor in the Joint UNC/NC State department of biomedical engineering, used a novel VR system to create the visual illusion of a loss of balance as study participants walked on a treadmill.

By perturbing their sense of balance in this way and recording their movements, Franz's team was able to determine how the participants' muscles responded. In principle, a similar setup could be used in clinical settings to diagnose balance impairments, or even to train people to improve their balance while walking.

"We were able to identify the muscles that orchestrate balance corrections during walking," Franz said. "We also learned how individual muscles are highly coordinated in preserving walking balance. These things provide an important roadmap for detecting balance impairments and the risk of future falls."

Young and healthy adults rely predominantly on the mechanical "sensors" in their feet and legs to give them an accurate sense of body position. So, healthy people usually have no trouble walking in the dark or with their eyes closed. But this sense of proprioception declines in the elderly, as well as in people who have neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, leading to a much greater reliance on visual cues to maintain balance.

In their study, Franz and colleagues chose to use a VR-based method to perturb the visual perception of balance. The subjects walked on a treadmill in front of a large, curved screen depicting a moving hallway.

"As each person walked, we added lateral oscillations to the video imagery, so that the visual environment made them feel as if they were swaying back and forth, or falling," Franz said. "The participants know they aren't really swaying, but their brains and muscles automatically try to correct their balance anyway."

In a setup like those seen in Hollywood motion-capture animation studios, Franz and his team used 14 cameras to record the positions of 30 reflecting markers on the legs, back, and pelvis of each subject. This allowed them to see, in detail, how the specific muscle groups that control postural sway and foot placement worked to correct a perceived loss of balance.

In response to the visual perturbations, the subjects took wider and shorter steps, as expected. And their head and trunk swayed further sideways with each step. The variability of these measures - their tendency to change from one step to the next - increased much more strikingly. Electrodes attached to the skin of the subjects also revealed coordinated electrical activity among the muscles that control postural sway and foot placement, including the gluteus medius, external oblique, and erector spinae.

"These findings give us important insights into the detailed mechanisms of walking balance control," Franz said.

The data also provide key reference measurements that could be used in future clinical procedures to detect balance impairments before they cause people to fall. Franz and his team have ongoing studies in elderly people and plans for studies in people with multiple sclerosis to help develop early-detection procedures. In their earlier work, they have shown that using this VR setting can identify age-related balance deficits that are not otherwise apparent during normal walking.

"We think there's a big opportunity to use visual perturbations in a VR setting to reveal balance impairments that would not be detected in conventional testing or normal walking," Franz said. "The key is to challenge balance during walking, to tease out those impairments that exist under the surface."

Franz and his colleagues also are examining the potential of their VR setup as a physical therapy tool to teach balance-impaired people how to improve their balance and avoid falls. "Early work in our lab suggests it's possible to use these visual perturbations to train a person's balance control system to respond better to imbalance that occurs in daily living," Franz said.

The other co-authors of the study were undergraduate research assistant Heather Stokes, who was first author of the Scientific Reports paper, and graduate student Jessica Thompson.

TECH SPACE
Leybold simplifies repairs and maintenance through Augmented Reality
Bornheim, Germany (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
Leybold GmbH, a German company of the Atlas Copco Group, is the first vacuum pump manufacturer to test the diverse application possibilities of Augmented Reality (AR). While executing tasks, service technicians obtain useful additional information and graphical documentation, partly in 3D. Leybold plans to extend the scalable AR apps to other product areas such as training, repair and maintenanc ... read more

Related Links
University of North Carolina Health Care
Space Technology News - Applications and Research


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

TECH SPACE
AGU journal commentaries highlight importance of Earth and space science research

NASA spacesuits over budget, tight on timeline: audit

'Better you than me,' Trump tells record-breaking astronaut

Lunar, Martian Greenhouses Designed to Mimic Those on Earth

TECH SPACE
New Russian Medium-Class Carrier Rocket Could Compete With SpaceX's Falcon

RSC Energia, Boeing Hammer Out a Deal on Sea Launch Project

India seeks status as a major space power with more satellite launches

India to Launch Carrier Rocket With Higher Payload Capacity in May

TECH SPACE
How Old are Martian Gullies

Opportunity Nears 'Perseverance Valley'

Engineers investigate simple, no-bake recipe to make bricks on Mars

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

TECH SPACE
China courts international coalition set up to promote space cooperation

Commentary: Innovation drives China's space exploration

Macao marks 2nd China Space Day with astronaut sharing space experience

China's Long March-5 Y2 carrier rocket leaves for launch site

TECH SPACE
ESA boosting its Argentine link with deep space

Arianespace, Intelsat and SKY Perfect JSAT sign a new Launch Services Agreement, for Horizons 3e

Airbus and Intelsat team up for more capacity

Commercial Space Operators To Canada: "We're Here, and We can Help"

TECH SPACE
Penn researchers quantify the changes that lightning inspires in rock

Can virtual reality help us prevent falls in the elderly and others?

Russian scientists create new system of concrete building structures

New organic lasers one step closer to reality

TECH SPACE
'Iceball' Planet Discovered Through Microlensing

'On Verge of Most Profound Discovery Ever,' NASA Tells US Congress

What can we learn from dinosaur proteins

Newly Discovered Exoplanet May be Best Candidate in Search for Signs of Life

TECH SPACE
ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system

Nap Time for New Horizons

Hubble spots auroras on Uranus

Cold' Great Spot discovered on Jupiter




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement