Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Before a Fall

Detecting problems with balance in multiple sclerosis using virtual reality

05 April 2020

Before a Fall

Imagine walking down this eerie hallway, then all of a sudden the walls begin to shake – forcing you to shift your feet and regain your balance. This 'balance challenge' is a trick of virtual reality used to fluster the participant’s optical flow – how we perceive our movement relative to the scenery – and spot problems with gait and balance common in those with multiple sclerosis. While a walk on a treadmill often isn’t enough to distinguish between healthy and affected legs, which may have damaged neurons more susceptible to falls, this simulated instability creates a tell-tale reaction, helping with diagnosis and treatment. Spotting these symptoms early, with a portable version of this test perhaps, may help patients avoid injury – while similar technology helps to improve their balance in the real world.

Written by John Ankers

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