WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY: The term "virtual reality" is often confusing because it is used in so many different ways. It is often used to describe interactive software programs -- on or off the Web -- in which the user responds to visual and auditory cures as he or she navigates a three-dimensional environment on a graphics monitor. But originally, it referred to immersive virtual environments, in which the user would be immersed in an artificial, three-dimensional computer-generated world, involving not just sight and sound, but touch as well through so-called "haptic" devices. Touch is vital to direct and guide human movement, and the use of haptics in virtual environments simulates how objects and actions feel to the user through biofeedback processes. This is critical for performing virtual surgery as part of medical training, for example.
ABOUT THE SPINAL CORD: The spinal cord is the longest nerve in the human body; it is a bundle of nerves that carries electronic signals to and from the brain to the rest of the body. The brain and spinal cord together constitute the central nervous system. The spinal cord is surrounded by rings of bones called vertebra, which make up the spinal column (back bones), and the vertebra are named according to their location. Spinal cord injury results when damage to the spinal cord leads to a loss of function, such as mobility of feeling. Where the damage occurs determines what parts of the body are affected by the injury. Generally, the higher in the spinal column the injury occurs, the more dysfunction a person will experience.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association, The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.