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An effective alternative to traditional therapy

Video games for stroke patients

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A Marie Curie Fellow, Dr Debbie Rand came up with an original way for reeducating patients following a stroke. She found out that patients were much more likely to make significant progress during their reeducation if they played video games than traditional reeducation.

In the months following a stroke, patients undergo hours of rehabilitation to restore movement, speech, and overall functionality. But many still return home without the ability to perform daily tasks, such as dressing, cooking or driving.

A Marie Curie Fellow, Dr Debbie Rand came up with an original way for reeducating patients following a stroke. She found out that patients were much more likely to make significant progress during their reeducation if they played video games than traditional reeducation.

According to Dr Rand this is due to the fact that video games require players to move continuously to interact with the virtual game. In her study, not only did the players perform double the number of arm movements during each session compared to patients in traditional therapy, but all of their movements were purposeful or “goal-directed” and not just repetitive exercises. As patients enjoy the video games they are also more likely to continue the treatment over the long term. This alternative to traditional reeducation therapy offers a double advantage: it is cost-effective and fun!

To test the effectiveness of interactive video games compared to traditional therapy, individuals who had experienced a stroke one to seven years before the study began were randomly assigned to one of two groups of 20 participants each — a traditional therapy group, who completed traditional rehabilitation exercises, and a video games group which played video games using Xbox Kinect, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Wii gaming consoles. Each group received two sessions a week with occupational therapists for a period of three months.

Although both groups showed improvement in functions such as grip strength of their weaker and stronger hands and gait speed, participants in the video games group continued to improve their grip strength for three months following the intervention, while the traditional group did not.

Dr Debbie benefited from a Reintegration grant at Tel Aviv University’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

Of interest

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