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UK first: Salford’s BASIC unveil £500k virtual reality machine to treat brain injury

By Tom Rodgers

A Salford brain injury charity has become the first in the country to install a groundbreaking virtual reality system to treat patients recovering from acquired brain injury.

Formerly only available to the military and research institutes, this cutting-edge technology is now available to the public for the first time at the Brain And Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC) on Eccles New Road in Salford.

BASIC have spent the last two years fundraising to achieve the £500,000 required to purchase the CAREN, or Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment system.

It allows therapists to treat a variety of problems such as walking, back pain, posture, balance, spinal stability and motor control integration, all of which suffer after brain injury.

This virtual reality tool creates a simulated environment whereby people who have suffered an injury can receive physical therapy in a way that makes it clear what muscles are being activated.

Patients can walk down a path or carry out other everyday situations in environments that are physically challenging without putting them in danger.

The machine is so big it had to be shipped from Amsterdam and a five-foot deep hole dug into the ground of the Salford charity to house the apparatus.

There are more than a quarter of a million new cases of brain injury in the UK every year as a result of stroke or head trauma.

BASIC work with around 750 people every year to rehabilitate people who have suffered brain injury.

Wendy Edge, CEO at BASIC, said: “We carried out extensive research on the benefits to patients in using this system and the evidence speaks for itself.

“Having seen it in action by the military in the USA, we’re confident it could change the future of physical therapy.

“Recovery can take a number of years and longer term aftercare available to acquired brain injury sufferers can be poor once people are discharged from NHS treatment, so this is a major leap forward.”

Research has shown that a virtual reality can speed up recovery time, help recover arm and hand movements, improve reaction times and reduce the impact of brain damage.

Wendy added: “The system has huge potential in treating patients and provides vast amounts of clinical data to enable the most effective treatment plan to be put in place. We’re hugely excited to be able to bring this to people across the UK.”

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.