WATCH: Can Virtual Reality Transform Physical Therapy?

Researchers have long seen the potential of virtual reality in rehabilitating patients with movement disorders. But do treatments using VR have advantages over traditional physical therapy?

Danielle Levac at Northeastern University’s ReGame laboratory is trying to answer that question.

“What we don’t know enough of is when you learn a skill in a virtual environment, to what extent does that actually help you get better at that skill in real life?” she said.

Levac’s work focuses on children with cerebral palsy and other movement disorders, and to measure any success, she first must come up with a baseline.

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On a recent day, Levac was putting 9-year-old Mattea through a series of games developed by the lab to see how she might ordinarily expect a child to perform.

While VR won’t replace traditional physical therapy, Levac sees its promise.

“I think that these games can provide a very useful adjunct that can potentially offer some extra benefits,” she said.

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This story was originally published by STAT, an online publication of Boston Globe Media that covers health, medicine, and scientific discovery.

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