Scientists have developed a diagnosis system based on virtual reality (VR) technology that may help in the early detection of various neuro-degenerative disorders including multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease. The system consists of VR headsets like Google Glass, a non-contact sensor controller and a mobile platform.
When a person puts on the glasses and gets into the VR mode where the environment changes the slope, the motion sensor detects changes of human body posture. A person without any disorder quickly adapts to VR and keeps a stable position while a person with a disorder can’t adapt and loses balance, the researchers said in a statement.
“We have also created a human skeleton model, identified 20 important points that the sensor monitors. Diagnosis provides results of deviations in the 20 points,” said David Khachaturyan, scientist at Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia.
The team tested the system on about 50 volunteers to see how VR influences people. The procedure, which took almost 10 minutes, engaged both healthy people and those in whom doctors already identified the neuro-degenerative disorders. The scientists made use of the existing VR devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft Kinect sensor system for the research.
In addition, the system can also identify “how people with different diseases react to a virtual environment. For instance, people with Parkinson’s disease get hand tremors — quick, rhythmic limb movements,” the authors said. In neuro-degenerative diseases, an individual suffers a progressive loss of nerve cells and coordination are primarily affected.
“These coordinated systems operate automatically. They falter if a person is affected by neuro-degenerative diseases,” added Ivan Tolmachov, Associate Professor at Siberian State Medical University in Tomsk. According to the scientists, in the case of Parkinson’s, cell death process can start at age 30 but the symptoms of the disease will be noticeable only at 50.
“To feel a function loss, a person should lose about 80 per cent of related cells. But then there is no way back to recovery,” Tolmachov pointed out. Therefore, it is important to diagnose the disease at early stages when patient can still get help, the researchers said.
“In future, the system will be used not only for disease diagnosis but for patient rehabilitation as well,” Tolmachov stated. The system is awaiting clinical trials and also requires technical and toxicological certification. It will be completed in 2017.