Suffering a stroke can affect the way your brain processes visual information, and researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Glasgow have found that a simple, low-cost therapy may be able to improve the quality of life for stroke patients.
The study approached the issue of visual neglect, which occurs when the brain is unable to process information about what is seen on one side of space. Those who have visual neglect are often unaware of visual stimuli found on either the left or right side. Those who have suffered a stroke on the left side of the brain may have difficulty processing visual information on the right side, meaning these patients may walk into things or accidentally ignore people.
To address the problem of visual neglect and help improve the lives of stroke patients living with it, lead authors Dr. Stephanie Rossit from the University of East Anglia and Dr. Monika Harvey of the University of Glasgow developed a form of visuomotor feedback training (VFT). Their method consisted of grasping, lifting, and balancing wooden rods in various sizes, allowing the patient to receive different sensory feedback to aid in the reduction of visual neglect. Patients were better able to process what was going on with the rod because the visual information was combined with touching and feeling the rod move.
The results of the study showed that VFT was able to produce significant long-lasting improvements for those with visual neglect, and benefits could be seen after just one hour of therapy. Patients with visual neglect who participated in this new form of VFT could locate more items in their neglected side of space within the first hour, and these results lasted for a minimum of four months after therapy ended.
The improvements associated with VFT therapy also helped patients with daily activities such as eating and dressing, improving their quality of life as they could accomplish these tasks without as much assistance.
This new form of visuomotor feedback training has yielded promising results and could easily be implemented as part of a stroke recovery regimen for patients who are experiencing visual neglect, as it is simple and effective and can be conducted in the patient’s own home. Speaking to the applicability of this method, Dr. Rossit stated “[…] this study shows that VFT is an extremely promising therapy for large-scale implementation. In contrast to most available techniques, VFT can be easily taught and administered, it is non-invasive, cost-effective and can be conducted by the patients themselves in their own homes.”
While it is not currently in clinical use, further research highlighting the benefits of this technique may lead to VFT becoming a staple of stroke recovery for patients with visual neglect.