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Video game helps stroke victims regain motor strength

November 15, 2013
by Richard R. Rogoski
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According to the National Stroke Association, every year approximately 325,000 stroke victims suffer from hemiparesis, or motor weakness affecting one side of the body. The most common therapy for hemiparesis is contraint-induced movement therapy, which improves motor function. But less than 1% of stroke victims receive this form of therapy.

Now, however, stroke victims can receive therapy while having fun, thanks to a team of researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The team, comprised of clinicians, computer scientists, an electrical engineer and a biomechanist, designed a 3D video game that provides high-repetition motor exercise targeting the affected arm and hand.

The video game takes place on a river that runs through a canyon, including multiple scenarios to encourage specific movements that challenge the individual. For example, one can paddle or row down the river, avoid rocks while navigating a set of rapids, swat at bats in a cave, grab bottles out of the water or steer the boat toward treasure chests.

The game also encourages the participant to use the weaker arm during more mundane daily activities.

Lynne Gauthier, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Ohio State's College of Medicine and the principal investigator of the study, has been pleased with the results. "This novel model of therapy has shown positive results for individuals who have played the game. Gains in motor speed, as measured by the Wolf Motor Function Test, rival those made through traditional CI therapy," she said. "It provides intense high quality motor practice for patients, in their own homes. Patients have reported they have more motivation, time goes by quicker and the challenges are exciting and not so tedious."