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Can Brain Signals Be Controlled with Virtual Reality

While teams in the NFL are using virtual reality (VR) to train their instincts, and researchers are using VR to eliminate peoples phobias, some scientists are now using the technology to help patients take control of the area of their brain affected by Parkinson’s.

Researchers from the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute in Canada are using the technology to get patients to control the colour of a ball within a virtual world while undergoing surgery.

In a news piece by CTV News Ottawa, patient Gilles Cloutier undergoes deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery with an Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) on, and manages to change the colour of the ball.

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One of the researchers working on the project, Chadwick Boulay told CTV: “We are hoping to reduce the severity of the symptoms. At this very early stage we are trying to identify what kind of brain signals are important, and whether or not patients can learn to control their signals and – if they can – does that improve the symptoms? We have some good evidence that patients can control signals – the same signals that are important for their disease. We don’t know yet if controlling those signals will improve their behaviour. That’s what we hope to find out in the coming months.”

Cloutier is the third patient to trial this procedure and says “I think it’s worth it” to help develop the trial.

VRFocus will continue to report on any medical breakthroughs using VR technology in the future.

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