A team of researchers at Tohoku University’s Smart-Aging Research Center (IDAC) has come up with a ground-breaking training protocol, which is said to be using the immersive virtual reality (IVR) technology. According to the researchers, the latest training procedure is capable of bringing about a wide range of cognitive and physical benefits.
It is believed that physical exercise plays a vital role in the overall health and well-being of an individual and helps prevent the early onset of aging-related disorders. However, what has surprised the researchers is that physical exercise could lead to a beneficial impact not only on one’s body but also on their cognitive functions. The researchers suggest that it is possible to solve this problem using IVR technology, which creates a realistic virtual world for people to explore through their virtual bodies. Although it might sound absurd or unreal, the illusion works so effectively that even a person who is sitting with their virtual body walking thinks that they are indeed moving, the researchers added.
The research team, which was led by Prof. Ryuta Kawashima, the director of IDAC, recruited several young and healthy participants to undergo the virtual training protocol. The participants were made to wear an IVR headset while sitting. On wearing the headset, they saw a virtual body in the first-person perspective. The researchers observed that the virtual body fluctuated for about eight minutes between 30 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking.
The heart rate of the participants augmented coherently along with the virtual movements. Moreover, the results of the training showed a significant improvement in the cognitive performance of the participants.
Prof. Dalila Burin, who both developed and conducted the procedure, said, “The application of immersive virtual reality for clinical purposes is often doubted because it was originally designed for entertainment. But this study proves that training protocols in IVR can be useful for people with motor impairments to have comparable benefits to real physical activity.”