50+ health * Healthy living

Wii games may help in stroke recovery

Zone default image Improve motor function

Wii video games may help people recover from stroke by improving motor function, new research suggests.

“This is the first randomized clinical study showing that virtual reality using Wii gaming technology is feasible and safe and is potentially effective in enhancing motor function following a stroke," said Dr Gustavo Saposnik, director of the Stroke Outcomes Research Unit at St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, who led the study.

The small study concentrated on improving movements with survivors’ impaired arms to help both fine (small muscle) and gross (large muscle) motor function.

To do this, twenty stroke survivors (average age 61) took part in playing either recreational games (cards or Jenga, a block stacking and balancing game) or Wii Tennis and Wii Cooking Mama, which uses arm movements that simulate cutting a potato, peeling an onion, slicing meat and shredding cheese.

Both groups of patients took part in eight 60 minute sessions over a two week period about two months after a stroke.

The researchers reported "significant motor improvement" in speed and extent of recovery in patients using the Wii technology.

"Basically, we found that patients in the Wii group achieved a better motor function, both fine and gross, manifested by improvement in speed and grip strength,” said Dr Saposnik.

He added that playing on a Wii uses the same type of repetitive, high-intensity tasks normally employed in traditional stroke rehabilitation and designed to activate special neurons involved in brain reorganisation.

The results from the study now need to be confirmed in a major clinical trial, said the researchers.

The findings were presented at a conference of the American Stroke Association in San Antonio, Texas.

This article was published on Fri 26 February 2010

Image © James Steidl - Fotolia.com

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