Assessing balance through the use of a low-cost head-mounted display in older adults: a pilot study
Received 20 May 2017
Accepted for publication 6 July 2017
Published 26 August 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 1363—1370
Checked for plagiarism Yes
Review by Single anonymous peer review
Peer reviewer comments 3
Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker
Santiago J Saldana,1 Anthony P Marsh,2 W Jack Rejeski,2 Jack K Haberl,2 Peggy Wu,3 Scott Rosenthal,4 Edward H Ip1
1Department of Biostatistical Sciences, Wake Forest School of Medicine, 2Department of Health and Exercise Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, 3Research and Development, Smart Information Flow Technologies, Minneapolis, MN, 4Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
Introduction: As the population ages, the prevention of falls is an increasingly important public health problem. Balance assessment forms an important component of fall-prevention programs for older adults. The recent development of cost-effective and highly responsive virtual reality (VR) systems means new methods of balance assessment are feasible in a clinical setting. This proof-of-concept study made use of the submillimeter tracking built into modern VR head-mounted displays (VRHMDs) to assess balance through the use of visual–vestibular conflict. The objective of this study was to evaluate the validity, acceptability, and reliability of using a VRHMD to assess balance in older adults.
Materials and methods: Validity was assessed by comparing measurements from the VRHMD to measurements of postural sway from a force plate. Acceptability was assessed through the use of the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire pre- and postexposure to assess possible side effects of the visual–vestibular conflict. Reliability was assessed by measuring correlations between repeated measurements 1 week apart. Variables of possible importance that were found to be reliable (r≥0.9) between tests separated by a week were then tested for differences compared to a control group. Assessment was performed as a cross-sectional single-site community center-based study in 13 older adults (≥65 years old, 80.2±7.3 years old, 77% female, five at risk of falls, eight controls). The VR balance assessment consisted of four modules: a baseline module, a reaction module, a balance module, and a seated assessment.
Results: There was a significant difference in the rate at which participants with a risk of falls changed their tilt in the anteroposterior direction compared to the control group. Participants with a risk of falls changed their tilt in the anteroposterior direction at 0.7°/second vs 0.4°/second for those without a history of falls. No significant differences were found between pre/postassessment for oculomotor score or total Simulator Sickness Questionnaire score. Both the force plate and the head-mounted display balance-assessment system were able to detect differences between conditions meant to mask visual and proprioceptive information.
Conclusion: This VRHMD is both affordable and portable, causes minimal simulator sickness, and produces repeatable results that can be used to assess balance in older adults.
Keywords: virtual reality, balance, falls, elderly
This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.Download Article [PDF] View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]