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New Virtual Reality System Helps Therapy Patients’ Bodies and Brains

As a patient recovering from a brain injury careened his car into a highway divider and then a tree, it became clear why he started with this virtual reality car instead of the real thing.

Benefis outpatient therapy patients are benefiting from new Virtualis virtual reality system that helps heal bodies and brains.

Physical therapist Callie Lagge said the VR room in the Outpatient Therapy Center in Medical Office Building 4 has been hopping since the system arrived this fall.

On a recent morning, a tween worked on hand-eye coordination with the VR system. Inside the headset, he saw a rendering of the universe with Earth to the side. His goal was to keep a rogue planet in his sights as it moved along a looped course. His therapist could quickly adjust the speed and difficulty of the simulation and what line the planet would follow to target different skills and muscles.

To the boy, it felt like playing a game instead of physical therapy.

The VR system is used to treat neurological and orthopedic impairments. We’re talking problems with balance, dizziness, motion sickness, brain hemisphere neglect after a stroke, chronic pain, speech, brain injuries, range of motion, and weakness.

“I’ve had a lot of balance gains and impact desensitizing the brain to motion. As you lean into the dizziness and discomfort, your brain starts to compensate,” Callie said.

The system is immersive with sound and hand controls. The next upgrade would be a balance pad to add another element to the experience — and, more importantly, work other skills.


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