Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center developed a therapeutic gaming application that these individuals can use at home to aid with the motor weakness that 80 per cent of survivors suffer from.
Around 325,000 people in the US alone are affected by this condition – known as hemiparesis – every year. Defined as a weakness or inability to move one side of their body, it can severely impact everyday activities such as dressing, eating or holding objects.
The recommended treatment for this is intensive constraint-induced movement therapy (CI therapy). However, less than one per cent of stroke survivors in the US receive this.
“Lack of access, transportation and cost are contributing barriers to receiving CI therapy,” said Lynne Gauthier, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation in Ohio State’s College of Medicine. “To address this disparity, our team developed a 3D gaming system to deliver CI therapy to patients in their homes.”
The Kinect program uses a selection of games that require the patient to interact with the motion sensor using their weakened arm for a combined total of 30 hours, over the space of two weeks. Examples of games included in the therapy include paddling down a river, swatting away bats inside a cave and grabbing bottles.
“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,” Ms Gauthier said.
Patients are able to go go through the therapy in their own homes, which the game-based interface provides more motivation and engagement, as the challenges are exciting and less tedious than standard CI therapy.
Ms Gauthier added that of the trial of the Kinect-based therapy for stroke patients is proven to be effective, it is possible the same principles could be applied to patients with traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.