Virtual reality for a better reality

Whenever we think of virtual reality we automatically think of fields it will really make a difference are engineering, design, business, the arts and entertainment. But some experiments with virtual reality across the world has shown how virtual reality could be the next big thing in medicine, how we approach medical treatment and training medical professionals for the future etc.

In Canada at the Montreal Neurological Institute, they are using NeuroTouch cranio, a brain surgery simulator, future surgeons learning to face the most difficult scenarios they could encounter in the real world. This means a learning curve like no other, the program can analyze mistakes and suggest improvements. The use of this simulator has exceeded the expectations of everyone involved. The system also features a no-win scenario to see how surgeons respond to a crisis of such situations.

In psychology, one of the most difficult treatment is the treatment of phobias and their lack of will to overcome them. Even if sought professional help, the goal is often to encounter the phobia on a first-hand basis to a point where the phobia is under control. To bypass the ethical constraints these treatments bring, virtual reality has replaced many logistical and practical problems encountered by medical professionals. From public speaking to a fear of heights, although the graphics may live up to the standards of eyes it has shown improvement in many patients. Patients are made to meet their fears in a virtual reality environment, this, in fact, increases the speed and the efficiency of the treatment.

Straight out of a comic book, Dr Miguel Nicolelis from Duke University has shown that brain-machine interfaces, when used in conjunction with exoskeletons and virtual reality, can trigger a partial recovery in patients recovering from spinal cord injuries.The experiment placed subjects in a virtual environment which they could navigate with their hand controls, translating to physical movement produced by the exoskeleton. All eight subjects showed marked improvement in sensory capacity and muscle control below the sites of their injuries. The experiment so successful that half of the patients involved with the program were officially upgraded from”fully” paralysed to “partially” paralysed.  

These experiments only shows how much is there is scope in virtual reality, it must be mentioned that most of these programs have in process long before the public appearance of the popular Oculus Rift

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