Virtual reality may be the next frontier in video gaming, but, according to ScienceDaily.com, it may also help people with Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's sufferers lose their ability to make swift movements. But researchers from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan have discovered that certain virtual reality exercises may help counteract this problem.

The study looked at several dozen subjects, divided into two groups; those with Parkinson's and those without. Each group participated in a series of tests designed to gauge their ability to grab a ball that was either stationary or rolling down an incline. The rolling balls were made visible to the subjects for anywhere from .5 seconds to 1.1 seconds. The tests were conducted in both physical reality and virtual reality.


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Under both reality scenarios, the Parkinson's group was much slower than the control group when grasping the immobile ball, but only a little slower when the ball was moving. The fact that the rolling ball provided more visual "cues" made it easier to grab.

Physical reality can't be altered, but virtual reality can. It can also track the movements of a patient. The researchers therefore suggested that by manipulating the visibility time of the ball, and providing other visual cues, Parkinson's sufferers could improve their movement speed. They also called virtual reality a "promising tool" in rehabilitation therapy for Parkinson's patients.