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The use of virtual reality in the rehabilitation of aphasia: a systematic review

Devane, N. ORCID: 0000-0001-8448-1478, Behn, N. ORCID: 0000-0001-9356-9957, Marshall, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-6589-221X , Ramachandran, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-5519-010X, Wilson, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-6445-654X & Hilari, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-2091-4849 (2022). The use of virtual reality in the rehabilitation of aphasia: a systematic review. Disability and Rehabilitation, doi: 10.1080/09638288.2022.2138573


Purpose: This systematic review explored how virtual reality (VR) has been used to rehabilitate aphasia.

Materials and Methods: Empirical studies were included where VR was used to target language, wellbeing or quality of life in adults with acquired language impairment. Degenerative communication disabilities were excluded. Seven health databases were searched in October 2021. Risk of Bias was assessed using published checklists and completeness of intervention reporting evaluated. Narrative synthesis described forms of VR, rationales given, outcome measures, communication functions targeted, characteristics of interventions and outcomes achieved within the framework of impairment, activity and participation.

Results: 14 studies, involving 229 participants, met criteria. The studies employed four forms of VR with various rationales given. Interventions used published and novel protocols. Primary outcomes targeted language impairment (12/14), activity (1/14) and wellbeing (1/14) and achieved positive outcomes in impairment and activity. All studies were exploratory. Risk of bias was high. Findings are discussed in the context of gains achieved by VR in other health contexts and the multi-user gaming literature.

Conclusions: Uses of VR in aphasia rehabilitation described in the literature are limited. Most applications target the remediation of language impairments. Opportunities to address activity, participation and wider aspects of wellbeing are rare.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Multi-user virtual worlds, functional communication, ICF, speech and language therapy, virtual environment, cognitive communication disorders, aphasia
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
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