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How Virtual Reality Could Help Brain Injury Survivors

The UK’s first ever virtual reality system to treat Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) survivors is now up-and-running in Salford.

BASIC – the Brain and Spinal Injury Centre – spent two years fundraising to raise the half a million pounds needed to buy the new CAREN system, which stands for Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment.

It’s a ground-breaking system that, so far, has only been used by the military or by universities for research purposes. This is the first time it has been used in a UK community setting.

BASIC are holding a number of open days in August where people can drop in and view the new CAREN system. Full details can be found on the BASIC website.

How CAREN Helps Brain Injury Survivors

Research has shown that a virtual reality can speed up recovery time, help recover arm and hand movements, improve reaction times, and reduce the impact of brain damage.

CAREN allows brain injury survivors to practice real life situations and undertake activities that they wouldn't normally be able to do.

In a safe and controlled environment, patients are placed at the helm of a life-size video game and forced to use atrophied muscles, aimed at teaching them the basic skills needed to recover quicker from their brain injury.

They can walk down a path, navigate a boat slalom, walk through a wood, and practice many other everyday situations all whilst in the safety of a harness. Any changes in terrain, such as those experienced when crossing the street or walking on uneven surfaces, are mimicked my CAREN and practiced by the patient.

As CAREN is tailored to a patient’s individual needs, movement can be analysed in real time and feedback provided immediately to patient and therapist.

The Future of Brain Injury Rehabilitation?

After seeing CAREN used in action by the US military, BASIC CEO Wendy Edge is confident it could change the future of physical therapy. As Wendy says, "Recovery can take a number of years and longer term aftercare available to acquired brain injury sufferers can be poor once people are discharged from NHS treatment, so this is a major leap forward.

“We’re hugely excited to be able to bring this to people across the UK.”

There are more than a quarter of a million new ABI hospital admissions each year, according to recent research from Headway, the brain injury association.

With a 10% increase in total ABI admissions over the last 10 years, it can only be hoped that the CAREN system will prove to be a huge success and help brain injury survivors get back to an independent life as soon as they can.

Carol Jackson is a Principal Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester, specialising in traumatic brain injury claims.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have many years of experience guiding brain injury survivors to brighter outcomes and can offer immediate legal representation and rehabilitation support from anywhere in the UK.

For a free consultation, call us 24/7 on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll get back to you.

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