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Exercise in Virtual Reality: The Future of Cardio-Respiratory Rehabilitation?


   Centre for Human and Applied Physiological Sciences

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  Dr Richard Bruce, Dr Oliver Runswick  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

In virtual reality (VR) environments, individuals can be placed in an immersive world where the nature of reality can be inconspicuously manipulated. This state-of-the-art technique has a clear potential for altering exercise workload perception, as altering visual, aural, and/or vestibular stimuli can give the perception of moving faster/slower or uphill/downhill. This concept has great therapeutic potential for patients with exercise intolerance undergoing rehabilitation (e.g. in COPD or heart failure). If the perception of exercise effort and sensations of breathlessness can be reduced with VR exercise (cycling), then it may allow patients to exercise at higher workloads and so maximise the long-term functional benefits of rehabilitation programmes.

The aims of the PhD project would be to:

  1. Assess and optimise as VR cycling intervention in manipulating perceived exertion and exercise performance in healthy participants
  2. Examine the feasibility and tolerance of VR exercise in breathless patients referred for rehabilitation
  3. Assess the ability of VR cycling to enhance workload capacity in these patients
  4. Pilot a training study investigating the effectiveness of a VR cycling intervention (as an adjunct to normal care) in improving patient outcomes

In this project you will learn to:

  • Design and operate virtual reality environments for exercise tasks
  •  Perform a series of standard/experimental exercise tests (e.g. CPET)
  • Conduct many clinical tests such as lung function testing
  • Conduct statistical analysis on commonly used software (SPSS, Python). 
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