Our company is developing virtual reality augmented systems to help clinicians convert their existing exercise equipment in order to provide intensive, task specific functional re-training. Our concept is to build tools that will enhance existing clinical resources rather than requiring the purchase of new equipment. The Virtual Reality Augmented Cycling Kit (VRACK), which we are developing for this Phase I application, will be used to increase fitness and motor control of individuals post-stroke with an anticipated transfer to improved walking. Innovations include the integration of hardware, software and existing equipment with current knowledge of neural plasticity and motor learning. We anticipate a rapid transfer of the technology to the clinic and even the home because the system is designed to make the clinician more efficient and effective at a cost savings. In the proposed Phase I project we have three aims: Development, Usability and Presence, and Feasibility Testing. The three aims are integrated and involve consumers (individuals post-stroke), intended users (physical therapists) and a team of clinician scientists and engineers. We will develop the prototype based on user and consumer input, as well as test the system's ease of use. In the feasibility study we will compare outcomes of training on the VRACK between healthy individuals and individuals post stroke. We will measure physiological changes, functional mobility (walking speed and endurance) as well as motor control as a result of training. We hypothesize that training in the virtual environment will transfer to improvements in fitness, functional mobility and ability to control movements. In Phase II, once the prototype is developed, we anticipate having it tested in independent research laboratories to validate our findings, relative to efficacy and cost effectiveness. The kits will then be distributed to local clinics for refinement of the training and implementation of the product. Knowledge gained from this step will allow us to then market and distribute the kits through physical therapy and rehabilitation medicine networks. We anticipate the VRACK will be used with any patient group that requires lower extremity fitness and motor control training to improve walking. The project is relevant to individuals post-stroke who have experienced inactivity and a loss of walking ability. It will allow individuals post-stroke to exercise in a safe way in order to reverse the deficits produced by the stroke that interfere with their ability to fully participate in their societal roles that require efficient walking. ? ?
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