Virtual reality (VR) based applications play an increasing role in motor rehabilitation. They provide an interactive and individualized environment in addition to increased motivation during motor tasks as well as facilitating motor learning through multimodal sensory information. Several previous studies have shown positive effect of VR-based treatments for lower extremity motor rehabilitation in neurological conditions, but the characteristics of these VR applications have not been systematically investigated. The visual information on the user’s movement in the virtual environment, also called movement visualisation (MV), is a key element of VR-based rehabilitation interventions. The present review proposes categorization of Movement Visualisations of VR-based rehabilitation therapy for neurological conditions and also summarises current research in lower limb application.
A systematic search of literature on VR-based intervention for gait and balance rehabilitation in neurological conditions was performed in the databases namely; MEDLINE (Ovid), AMED, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycInfo. Studies using non-virtual environments or applications to improve cognitive function, activities of daily living, or psychotherapy were excluded. The VR interventions of the included studies were analysed on their MV.
In total 43 publications were selected based on the inclusion criteria. Seven distinct MV groups could be differentiated: indirect MV (N = 13), abstract MV (N = 11), augmented reality MV (N = 9), avatar MV (N = 5), tracking MV (N = 4), combined MV (N = 1), and no MV (N = 2). In two included articles the visualisation conditions included different MV groups within the same study. Additionally, differences in motor performance could not be analysed because of the differences in the study design. Three studies investigated different visualisations within the same MV group and hence limited information can be extracted from one study.