New Virtual Reality Immersive Lab Embodies Parkinson’s, LBD Patients

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by Mary Chapman |

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With the aim of transforming training and education for Parkinson’s disease  and Lewy body dementia (LBD) caregivers and healthcare professionals, Embodied Labs has created a new virtual reality immersive learning lab.

Embodied Labs allows caregivers and medical staff to embody a person with a specific condition, and learn what it’s like to be in their shoes. The labs simulate problems and situations facing older adults and their caregivers. The company has explored other conditions, including age-related macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re excited to debut our latest lab focusing on Lewy body dementia, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects 1 million Americans, as well as Parkinson’s disease, where there are 60,000 new cases each year,” Carrie Shaw, CEO and Embodied Labs co-founder, said in a press release. “Our mission is to contextualize healthcare diagnoses and care by transforming the training and education for both professional and family caregivers.”

The holistic approach fosters enhanced understanding, empathy and ultimately better care, Shaw said.

In the company’s new Dima Lab, “learners” will embody “Dima,” a Lebanese-American immigrant living with symptoms of Parkinson’s and LBD, as she transitions from home care to care in a residential community. Lewy body dementia is the second-most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s. Protein deposits called Lewy bodies develop in nerve cells in brain regions central to thinking, memory, and motor control.

The lab covers symptoms of both Parkinson’s and Lewy, how families navigate care when symptoms cause challenges, understanding how culture affects care decisions, and care transitions to residential care communities.

In part one, the learner embodies Dima as she cares for her grandchildren while trying to adjust to PD symptoms and doing basic tasks; she has hallucinations and trouble sleeping, problems moving and standing, and helps make decisions about her care and changing life.

Stage two has the learner embodying Dima as her symptoms begin to affect her personality. Here, Dima also has family-affecting hallucinations, falls and breaks a hip, and discusses care options with her physician and family.

In the final stage, the learner embodies Dima as she moves into a new residential community and adjusts to her new life.

The Embodied Labs platform, which requires a tethered virtual reality headset, computer and leap motion controller, uses what it calls a “gerontological biopsychosocial framework” for its lab training. Each lab incorporates scientific knowledge through 360-degree biomedical animation with the patient’s socio-emotional experience, mixing the power of simulation with storytelling.