Incorporating Technology and Virtual Reality in Parkinson Disease and Neurological Disorders: Jay Alberts, PhD


The Edward F. and Barbara A. Bell Family Endowed Chair at Cleveland Clinic discussed seamless adjustment made by patients with Parkinson disease to virtual reality, and the benefits it may bring to care. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"There’s a misconception that people with neurological diseases, or even older adults, can’t use technology. That was absolutely untrue. They embraced this system, used it like a champ, and had very good usability scores.”

Treating a disease in its prodromal stages may ultimately lead to better long-term outcomes, but identifying these underlying changes remains a challenge, especially in Parkinson disease (PD). A new approach using virtual reality (VR) is working toward improving this. The Cleveland Clinic Virtual Reality Shopping (CC-VRS) platform places patients in a virtual grocery store setting, where they are asked to complete basic and complex shopping experiences while on an omnidirectional treadmill. The complex experience has additional scenarios that increase the cognitive and motor demands of the task to better represent the continuum of activities associated with real-world shopping.

Previously, issues with incorporating VR into neurology care have stemmed from sensory inconsistencies between the visual and vestibular systems, leading to sickness, or otherwise known as a locomotion problem. In the first research published on the CC-VRS, the platform was shown to effectively address the locomotion problem, with patients across the trial having no issues adapting to the VR setting. Lead investigator Jay Alberts, PhD, believes that this study not only highlights the capabilities of VR but also shuts down the notion that those with PD and/or neurological diseases perform poorly with technology.

Alberts, the Edward F. and Barbara A. Bell Endowed Chair at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, sat down with NeurologyLive® to discuss the major findings from the study, including the safe profile of the CC-VRS. He also provided context on the some of the specific tasks done during the study and what they tell us about the how PD forms.

1. Alberts JL, McGrath M, Koop M, et al. The immersive Cleveland Clinic Virtual Reality Shopping Platform for the assessment of instrumental activities of daily living. J Vis Exp. Published online July 28, 2022. doi:10.3791/63978
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