Globe and Mail: Virtual rehab


While Jean-Guy Thibault was in a Montreal rehabilitation hospital in 2008 after a massive stroke, he made a promise to his occupational therapist: "One day, I'm going to have a beer on Saint Catherine Street and watch the girls go by." It seemed like a long shot at the time: He couldn't walk, sit or even hold a pint. The 66-year-old underwent intensive rehab for eight months, but his left arm was still paralyzed by the time he was sent home to continue his recovery on his own. Then, about two months ago, he participated in a clinical trial for an emerging field of therapy: video-game rehab. In recent years, researchers around the world have been investigating the potential of virtual reality to help victims of stroke and other brain injuries. While it can't replace work with a physical therapist, it is still effective and far cheaper. But most importantly, because it's entertaining, patients are more likely to do the same exercises over and over again, which is crucial for recovery. The trial Mr. Thibault participated in - which included 60 patients in Montreal and Ottawa - was led by Mindy Levin, a professor in the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University.