Virtual reality interface devices in the reorganization of neural networks in the brain of patients with neurological diseases

Two essential characteristics of all virtual reality applications are interaction and immersion. Systemic interaction is achieved via a number of multisensory channels (hearing, sight, touch, and smell), permitting the user to interact with the virtual world in real time. Immersion is the degree to which a person can feel wrapped in the virtual world through a defined interface. Virtual reality interface devices such as the Nintendo® Wii and its peripheral nunchuks-balance board, head mounted displays and joystick facilitate interaction and immersion in unreal environments created from computer software. Virtual environments are highly interactive, generating great activation of visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems during the execution of a video game. In addition, they are entertaining and safe for the user. Recently, incorporating therapeutic purposes in virtual reality interface devices has made it possible for them to be used for the rehabilitation of neurological patients, e.g., balance training in older adults and dynamic stability in healthy participants. The improvements seen in neurological diseases (chronic stroke and cerebral palsy) have been shown by changes in the reorganization of neural networks in patients’ brain, along with better hand function and other skills, contributing to their quality of life. The data generated by such studies could substantially add to physical rehabilitation strategies.