Virtual Environment for Assessement and Rehabilitation Laboratory
As we navigate the environment, we must continually adapt our gait to avoid or accommodate obstacles such as stairs, other people or moving cars. After an injury, aging, or pathology, the ability to adapt gait to the environment is compromised, leading to an increased risk of falling and injury. To restore a patient's ability to appropriately interact with the environment – termed functional mobility – a physical rehabilitation program is employed. Unfortunately, the decision of when functional mobility has been restored is largely subjective, making it difficult to know when a patient should be released to return to dynamic activity, such as sports or active duty. Releasing the patient prematurely could lead to an increased risk of further injury.
Goals and Objectives
The mission of the Virtual Environment for Assessment and Rehabilitation (VEAR Lab) is two-fold.
- Develop and apply objective, quantifiable metrics that accurately index functional mobility. This is a vital step toward a clinical framework that specifically targets and individualizes physical rehabilitation to enhance functional mobility. We adopt a dynamic systems perspective in our lab, which affords the ability to index how gait patterns evolve over time. These dynamic patterns in gait reflect a person's ability to exhibit functional mobility. By indexing these patterns prior to a rehabilitation program, exercises can be designed to incorporate the specific gait patterns the patient is lacking.
- Create virtual reality (VR) applications that are specifically designed to restore functional mobility. Once the missing gait patterns leading to the locomotor dysfunction have been identified, VR applications can be designed to incorporate the missing patterns. VR applications can provide the patient with a visual stimulus to which they can synchronize and affords them the opportunity to restore the gait characteristics that led to their locomotor dysfunction. Our lab had developed VR applications that use visual metronomes, walking footprints, and avatars to elicit the desired gait pattern.
Metrics that quantify functional mobility
VR applications to restore functional mobility
The VEAR Lab is equipped 3D motion overground and on a treadmill. The specialized treadmill can also simulate slips and trips. Virtual reality software is used to create and render virtual environments that can include avatars or walking footprints. (More)