Visualization Techniques for Parkinson’s Disease

A few visualization interventions are emerging compensatory techniques for managing Parkinson’s disease (PD). Visual story telling can get translated into a subtle contracting of the muscles needed to walk in a particular manner. This stimulates the brain and nerve pathways to the muscles.

Motor Imagery (MI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Guided Imagery (GI) are evolving therapeutic approaches that make use of the cognitive function to enhance movement, balance and mobility in individuals with PD. Such interventions can be used to engage the mirror neurons and motor neurons in the brain and hence decrease the PD symptoms.

Motor Imagery

Motor Imagery (MI) has been used to rehabilitate motor deficits in PD. Widely used in sports training as the mental practice of action, MI initiates internal imagery (or first person perspective) in PD fighters for neurological rehabilitation. When paired with physical rehearsal, mental rehearsal can mentally simulates a given action as the subject (in this case PD fighter) feels himself performing the action. This mental practice of action seems to improve balance in individuals with PD.

Virtual Reality Training

Falls are common among people with PD due to common walking and balance difficulties. Obstacle negotiation, encountering an object and moving over or around it requires greater attention, planning and judgment that is compromised in the PD patient. Virtual Reality (VR) may strengthen the thinking processes that could help the PD fighter avoid falls.

Studies show that VR can improve functional outcome in PD. Virtual Reality, being a multimedia experience, lets the PD patient interact with a different environment, helping them prevent falls. A research by Michael J. Fox Foundation shows a significant reduction in falls among people with Parkinson’s disease, who completed a treadmill and virtual reality training program. Training in the virtual reality environment enhances PD fighters’ performance during attention-demanding and challenging situations.

Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery (GI) concentrates the mind on positive images or thoughts to reduce stress and anxiety. Since motor symptoms such as tremors can be aggravated due to stress, these relatively new methods promise to promote healthy growth of neurotransmitters. When an individual interprets positive images as real, a relaxation response is created to counteract the stress response. GI also helps PD fighters with lowered blood pressure and heart rate.

In addition to vision, GI lets an individual harness his other senses – taste, sound, smell, and sensation to help him connect to his inner resources for improving health.