Immersive Technology in Neurosciences
How can immersive technology help improve the way we deliver treatment and care?
While immersive technologies are not new, they are not routinely used in clinical practice. Therefore, Ryan Mathew, Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon, is leading projects to explore how immersive technologies typically used in gaming, such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), can be used to enhance patient engagement and rehabilitation.
Empowering patients through improved information
Working with technology partners BrainLab, Ryan and his team are using mixed reality to help better inform patients of their treatment and diagnosis before surgery. BrainLab creates an anatomical digital model of the patient’s brain, which is then displayed through Magic Leap goggles. The surgeon can then guide the patient through their own brain, pointing out any tumours or anomalies, walking them through their treatment before surgery.
Enhancing rehabilitation to speed up recovery
To accelerate rehabilitation and discharge from hospital post-surgery, Ryan, and the Neurosciences Physiotherapy team are working with technology partners SyncVR Medical. They are using a virtual reality solution to investigate whether patients can be educated to self-direct some elements of their own therapy. The technology combines hardware and software with specialised input devices like controllers to deliver sensory stimulation and guide therapy.
Ryan Mathew commented: “We’re recruiting patients to join this study now to build the critical evidence needed to explore whether immersive technology can help get patients better faster after surgery. What we have seen already is that it is feasible to use VR in the acute clinical setting, patients appear to enjoy and tolerate the experience well, and that therapists can integrate the technology into their workflow. The current study also aims to see if patients can enhance their in-person physiotherapy by being better educated about their therapy needs. Innovations such as these don’t have to be expensive. What we’re trying to show here is that they can be cost effective and woven into the fabric of the NHS. Future studies will look at the potential of VR to deliver therapy as a standalone modality and/or in combination with in-person therapy.”
One of the patients who trialled the immersive technology said: “Surviving a major surgery or ailment is not enough. Surgeons helped me recover using an immersive VR app for me to leave the hospital quickly and go on to have a good quality life both before and after my surgery”
Where the Innovation Pop Up comes in
The Innovation Pop Up and the Centre for Immersive Technologies at the University of Leeds have supported immersive technology studies through the provision of expertise, industry links, contracting, licensing, purchasing, storage and collaborative working across research and clinical disciplines.