London, August 25 : Stroke and injury sufferers may now rely upon a novel technology a scientist at Portsmouth University for fast recovery - virtual reality treadmill.
Wendy Powell claims that has basically written a piece of software that can trick patients into believing that they are moving more slowly than they actually are, encouraging them to move faster.
The researcher says that moving images on a giant screen respond to patients' efforts on an adapted treadmill, and prompt them to move faster and further than they might ordinarily progress.
The device comes with a variety of different settings, including urban and woodland landscapes, through which it can create a virtual world for the patient to "walk" through on the treadmill.
Initial research has shown patients using it have a decreased perception of pain.
"The virtual system encourages patients to walk more quickly and for longer, almost without them realising it. It's not just that they're distracted from the pain; by moving faster than they realise, their body actually feels it less. We're effectively fooling the brain and cheating the body," the Independent quoted Powell as saying.
"It's a lot more fun than traditional rehab and it can actually facilitate a much faster recovery. Our test subjects are usually surprised when I tell them they've improved by up to 20 per cent," Powell added.
Clinical trials on patients are taking place in collaboration with McGill University in Canada.
Sixty-one-year-old stroke sufferer Andy Long, who has been using the technology as part of his rehab, hails it as "magic".
"The vast majority of stroke survivors cannot use a normal treadmill because they are not in control. Many can only hold on with one hand, making it almost impossible. Walking is the best possible exercise for their bodies, and this system means it could all become available to them," he said.