Researcher receives grant to study amputees in virtual world

A researcher from Nova Southeastern University College of Health Care Sciences. Ft. Lauderdale-Davie, was recently awarded a grant to study how amputees respond in a virtual world.

Sandra Winkler, PhD, faculty researcher and assistant professor, received a 3-year grant of nearly $1 million from the Department of Health & Human Services Agency on Healthcare Research & Quality to pursue her dissertation, titled “Dissemination of amputation and prosthetic evidence-based medicine (DAP-EM)”. The study is designed to translate into educational and supportive programs to improve amputees functionally and psychologically and potentially help reduce phantom limb pain.

“Patients will be able to enter our virtual island and simulate what it is like to once again use their missing limbs,” Winkler said. “This has the possibility to make life better for many amputees, and all they will need is an Internet connection. It is our hope that this project will not only support the amputees, but support clinicians and caregivers by allowing them to simulate and learn more about life as an amputee.”

Participants will be able to virtually experience everything from riding on a jet ski to diving in a coral reef. The virtual world will also include an historical tour, educational seminars and a forum for participants to anonymously discuss common issues and challenges they face in the real world. Participants will also be able to test different prostheses virtually, allowing them to gain a sense of different types of devices and determine what may be the best for them.

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