Skip to content

Hallam researchers developing virtual reality games to help people rehabilitate from swallowing disorder

In this story

Explore the people, themes, departments and research centres behind this story

Press contact

Nicky Swire

Contact us

For help with a story or to find an expert

Email: pressoffice@shu.ac.uk
Phone: 01142 252811

On social media

 Twitter (press office)
 Twitter (university)
 Facebook
 Instagram
 YouTube

02 June 2021

Hallam researchers developing virtual reality games to help people rehabilitate from swallowing disorder

Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University are developing new immersive virtual reality (VR) scenarios which will help people to rehabilitate and recover from dysphagia, a swallowing disorder which is highly prevalent in older populations

Press contact: Nicky Swire | nicky.swire@shu.ac.uk

Old hands

Dysphagia is the term for people who have difficulty swallowing food, pills or liquid – with 52-82 per cent of people with Parkinson’s, 50 per cent of stroke survivors and 84 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s suffering from the disorder. 

It is also being increasingly observed in people who have required ventilation treatment as a result of contracting Covid-19. 

The project, which is being funded by MRC Cinc, sees bespoke VR scenarios being developed for dysphagia rehabilitation. Patients control a virtual avatar in real-time – with the engaging, interactive experience requiring a swallowing motion via a strain gauge device. It is anticipated that the VR system will enhance the re-education of the muscles and make swallowing safer and more effective again.

Dysphagia patients often report traditional treatment as difficult to complete. The programmes can last many months and include postural changes when swallowing, strategies to alter specific aspects of the swallow or intensive exercise programmes. 

Sheffield Hallam is collaborating with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Footfalls and Heartbeats, a Nottingham-based intelligent textiles start-up, to deliver the project. 

The cross-disciplinary team is led by senior research fellow Ivan Phelan and includes Professor Susan Pownall, Dr Penny Furness, Alicia Carrión-Plaza, Dr Hajar Razaghi, Jude Wilson and Kent Lau. The combined expertise covers games development, speech and language therapy, electrical and electronic engineering, psychology and VR healthcare systems. The project seeks to establish the concept of using VR to treat dysphagia patients and translate into healthcare settings.

Ivan said: “We plan you utilise what we have learned from our previous work with pain and rehabilitation. Dysphagia is a serious problem and we feel that working together with specialists in this area will enable us to develop something that can make a difference to people’s lives.”

The research is part of Sheffield Hallam’s Culture and Creativity Research Institute, and the team has previously developed new approaches to child health technology through VR – such as virtual reality climbing and archery games which help children with hand and arm injuries through their rehabilitation, including those who need to adjust to prosthetic limbs.

Sheffield Hallam University is a national leader in creating innovative and real-world solutions for tackling today's health and wellbeing challenges. 

In this story

Explore the people, themes, departments and research centres behind this story

Press contact

Nicky Swire

Contact us

For help with a story or to find an expert

Email: pressoffice@shu.ac.uk
Phone: 01142 252811

On social media

 Twitter (press office)
 Twitter (university)
 Facebook
 Instagram
 YouTube

Share this page