VCU researchers are using VR ‘games’ as exercise therapy for individuals with Parkinson’s

You’d call them games. James S. Thomas, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University, and his team call them interventions for patients with movement disorders.

What began as a clinical trial at VCU to learn whether virtual reality games could relieve lower back pain has evolved to include their use as therapy for those with Parkinson’s disease. 

“You feel like you’re playing a game, but what’s happening behind the scenes is that we’ve developed algorithms to tailor the game experience to the individual and encourage you to move with better trunk control.”

James Thomas, Ph.D.


VCU Innovation Gateway has worked with Thomas since his arrival at VCU from Ohio University in late 2018. Innovation Gateway, which both protects and licenses university intellectual property and supports VCU-borne ventures, has provided guidance to the researcher on his protectable IP and possible pathways to bring the VR interventions to market. 

“Virtual reality, or more broadly XR/extended reality, is a rapidly developing space that offers incredible opportunities for companies and investors,” said Brent Fagg, a licensing associate with Innovation Gateway. “Collaboration between VCU's health science, communication arts and computer science departments positions VCU to be a leader in VR/XR content with a focus on new health solutions. At Innovation Gateway, we are working to build our VR portfolio and commercialize the university’s innovations in the field to benefit the public.”

Read the full story at VCU News.