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CAREN: Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment

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The CAREN system at the Midwestern University Therapy Institute is an immersive virtual reality environment for advanced clinical evaluation, analysis, and rehabilitation for a variety of neuro-physical conditions. These may include conditions that affect vision, balance, and physical abilities, as well as many others.

This highly interactive system consists of a moving platform with an embedded, instrumented treadmill, wrap-around projection screens, integrated motion capture system, and electromyography, which measures electrical activity in skeletal muscle to help diagnose neuromuscular disorders or provide biofeedback. These specialized features create controlled virtual environments, from walking down a forest path to steering a speedboat on a lake or navigating objects on a road, in which patients can interact safely and healthcare providers can obtain important kinetic and kinematic data.

CAREN can be customized for individual patient needs, and will be utilized at MWU for assessment and rehabilitation for patients with Parkinson’s disease, strokes, brain injuries, physical injuries, visual skills training, and more. It also offers balance and gait assessment programs, falls assessment, and manual propulsion for patients in wheelchairs.

Healthcare providers across many disciplines will be able to utilize this state-of-the-art technology, including physical therapy, podiatry, vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation, sports vision performance training, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and others.

“We are excited to bring the CAREN to the community,” says Kaila Osmotherly, O.D., Medical Director for the Therapy Institute and Associate Dean for the Arizona College of Optometry.  “This technology is truly at the forefront of rehabilitation and research. It’s incredible to think of the progress that individual patients will gain from this device as part of their treatment and of the knowledge that we as a healthcare community will gain from the research possibilities.”

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