Sergio Canavero's work is as controversial as it can get. The Italian neurosurgeon's chances to succeed with the first ever head-transplantation are slim, and the procedure raises plenty of moral and ethical questions. He published his plans few years ago, claiming he can successfully reattach a patient's head to a completely new body in a 36 hours surgery. The project is known as HEAVEN (Head Anastomosis Venture) and he already has a patient: Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old Russian man with muscular atrophy.
Canavero said they will partner-up with Inventum Bioengineering Technologies, a healthcare tech company developing a virtual reality system to help the Spiridonov adjust to his new body. The experiment starts months before the actual surgery and continues onwards. The system uses a physical hoist to hold the patient upright, and creates an immersive experience to stimulate the sensation of walking and the voluntary use of motor functions. It also prepares the patient for the distress of seeing himself on somebody else's body.
While this sounds like science fiction and Canavero is at its best controversial among the physician society, using virtual reality to adjust to paraplegic issues is sort of common now in healthcare.
The Walk Again Project helps patients by using virtual reality to regain partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs. In a recent study all eight participating patients improved their motor functions by training with virtual reality headsets. We are not sure if Canavero's head transplantation will work, but we are damn sure that VR has great benefits for those who need to learn to walk again.