Australian Neuroscientist: Video Games Great for Stroke Rehab

August 12, 2011 -

Neuroscientist Stuart Smith of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney is using video games to make rehabilitation exercises for stroke patients less boring. Smith says that the biggest problem with rehabilitation exercises for stroke patients is that most participants find that they are about as exciting as watching paint dry. Many of Smith's stroke patients find the traditional exercises associated with rehabilitation repetitive and frustrating. Traditional rehab improves motor control and reduces sensory and intellectual impairment.

"This is especially the case with the young guys," says Smith. "It's difficult to even get them to turn up to the rehabilitation sessions sometimes. You can move a bag of sand across a desk thousands of times a day and see a very clear improvement, but no one's going to do that."

Smith sees that people would rather play video games, so he has come up with a novel approach, combining both. While Smith could use a VR system used by many in his field (San Francisco psychologist Ralph Lamson's VR immersion therapy technology is one that has proven effective), Smith prefers using games that are readily available on systems that support motion control, such as iPad and the Wii.

"We use a game called Fruit Ninja," Smith explains. "It's a fruit-slicing game you play on an iPad touchscreen." The game requires players to make frequent rapid precision wrist movements across the screen to slice the virtual fruit. The movements mimic exercises used in fine motor-skills therapy. Smith is also modifying certain games for the Nintendo Wii and other consoles to make them easier for stroke patients to play. The results are promising, according to Smith.

"We've found that most of our patients actually do more than what we ask of them," says fellow NeurA researcher Penelope McNulty, creator of a similar Wii-oriented rehabilitation program. "In traditional therapy, it's a struggle to get people to do the minimum amount. [This] is a lot of fun, so people enjoy doing it. Therefore, they do the hours they need to do to gain the benefit,"

McNulty adds that rewards and incentives built into the game, along with the element of competition are very "motivating" to many patients.

It also doesn't hurt that many of the games these neuroscientist use are familiar to many patients, which isn't the case with other rehabilitation methods. McNulty also notes they use these games and game systems "in a very structured, formalised way" and that patients are given "specific movement strategies to work on."

It's not yet clear if the video games serve the rehabilitation process better than more traditional programs, beyond the engagement and interest shown by patients.

"We'll be investigating that with functional magnetic resonance imaging tests soon," says McNulty.

"This is really just the beginning," Smith says. "We're going to see these things get better and better."

Source: The Australian


 
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Andrew EisenWhen I write about these massacres, I don't use the shooter's name or picture. I'm not saying everyone has to play it that way but that's how I prefer to do it.10/25/2014 - 12:44am
Andrew EisenYep, it's why the news media stopped spotlighting numbnuts who run out on the field during sporting events.10/25/2014 - 12:01am
Matthew Wilsonin media research its called the copycat effect. it simply says that if the news covers one mass shooting shooter, it increases the likelihood of another person going on a mass shooting.10/25/2014 - 12:00am
Andrew EisenAgreed. It bugs me that I know the names, faces and personal histories of a bunch of mass shooters but I couldn't tell you the name of or recognize a photo of a single one of their victims.10/24/2014 - 11:51pm
AvalongodAgree with Quiknkold. @Mecha...if that worked we would have figured out how to prevent these long ago.10/24/2014 - 11:32pm
MechaCrashUnfortunately, you have to focus on the perpetrator to figure out the whys so you can try to prevent it from happening again.10/24/2014 - 10:55pm
quiknkoldpoor girl. poor victims. rather focus on them then the shooter. giving too much thought to the monster takes away from the victims.10/24/2014 - 10:15pm
Andrew EisenFor what it's worth, early reports are painting the motive as "he was pissed that a particular girl wouldn't date him."10/24/2014 - 10:12pm
quiknkoldwell then I suck as a man cause I ask for help when necessary :P10/24/2014 - 10:07pm
Technogeek(That said, mostly I was making the smartass evopsych comment because your post seemed like the kind of just-so story that has come to dominate 99% of its usage.)10/24/2014 - 10:04pm
TechnogeekHell, Liam Neeson built his modern career around it. Cultural factors likely play a far greater role than you appear willing to admit.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
TechnogeekSeriously, though, the idea of "because women are protectors and that's why they never commit school shootings" is, at best, grossly overreductive. There's nothing inherently feminine about being willing to kill in order to protect one's offspring.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
MechaCrashThe "toxic masculinity" thing refers to how you have to SUCK IT UP AND BE A MAN because seeking help is seen as weakness, which means you suck at manliness, so it builds and builds and builds until something finally snaps.10/24/2014 - 10:01pm
quiknkoldthere, I'm done. And thats what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldand I am not spouting Evopsych, technogeek. tbh I never heard the phrase till you said it. I'm going off my observations.10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldmoreover, the guy who did this isnt even white. He was native american according to the news report I read. Also that he went for a specific target. That's a much different picture than a certain Sandy Hook guy who will not be named10/24/2014 - 9:53pm
quiknkoldbut I am also certain nobody in their right mind is committing these shootings singing the Machoman song. these are sick individuals who have given up on life10/24/2014 - 9:51pm
Technogeekevopsych lol10/24/2014 - 9:49pm
quiknkoldWhen you suffer from mental illness, youre more likely to go by instinct. yes. I came off as sexist.10/24/2014 - 9:46pm
quiknkoldmore on somthing they are fixated on. Post Partum Depression is an example. This is why a woman is less likely to go off on a rampage.10/24/2014 - 9:44pm
 

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