Engage VR Rehabilitation cofounder and physiotherapist Craig Hewat with client Maria De Paz and cofounder and movement therapist Rohan O'Reilly.

Newcastle-based movement therapist Rohan O’Reilly is revolutionising rehabilitation for stroke, brain and spinal cord injury victims.

As co-founder of Australia’s first integrated virtual reality (VR) neuro rehabilitation clinic, Engage VR Rehabilitation, Mr O’Reilly says this type of therapy allows people to achieve more measurable results.

He adds that technology companies continue to work on expanding the sensory experience of VR.

“What is ahead from a technology perspective is going to be vastly different from what exists now and, therefore, the ability to convince the brain is going to be vastly different – and that is the key salient thing,” he said.

Engage VR Rehab is working with new medical technology to enhance the sensory and motor function of people with arm or hand disabilities as a result of stroke or brain injury.

“We’re taking it to the next level of how VR can allow you to interact on a deeper level of emersion,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“VR at the moment you can see it, and your brain greatly believes what you see, but if you can feel in VR as well, that’s a completely different level and that’s where it is moving.

“It will become multisensory – touch, smell, resistance, hot and cold – that’s where it is going and when it gets there, it will be an indispensable tool in health.”

The clinic is taking a collaborative approach with allied health professionals working hand in hand with new technology.

“The approach is combining what is called subjective and objective measures,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“Subjective being how you feel and objective whether you can actually move your arm or legs more, for example.

“We’re moving to a position where we can interact with people in our clinic, set them up with a series of simulations and attach sensors to show exactly what it is doing to the person.

“For example, if we’re trying to create more movement in a leg, we want to see the part of the brain responsible for moving that leg or sending those signals is being stimulated.

“That can be done on a real-time basis, so every session you have someone looking at your data and suggesting you might pedal a little bit harder or turn a little to the left so you’re hitting the target.”

Mr O’Reilly’s work is gaining attention. He is the latest guest on Feros Care’s Grow Bold with Disability podcast, where he talks about the rapidly evolving future of VR – once the sole domain of gamers – in rehabilitation.

The podcast explores the lives of those with a disability.

Host Pete Timbs says it helps listeners better understand life with a disability.

“We’ve heard a wide variety of stories and they’ve all got one thing in common: they’re living boldly, embracing disability and creating societal change,” he said.

“I’m sure listeners of the podcast will find these stories fascinating and walk away with a better understanding of what life is actually like for people with disability.”

Grow Bold With Disability is available on the Feros Care website, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or Spotify. Rohan O’Reilly features on Episode 20: Growing Bold With Technology.

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