Posted on May 26, 2011, 6 a.m.
Computer games can speed up and improve a patient's recovery from paralysis after a stroke.
In that it is often difficult for stroke victims to recover hand and arm movement, and 80-90% of sufferers still have problems six months later, Alma Merians, from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (New Jersey, USA), and colleagues assessed a group of people who had impaired use of one arm after a stroke; they found that computer simulations and cutting edge techniques, used by the film industry to produce computer generated action, could restore lost function.While many current training regimes concentrate on regaining hand and arm movement separately, the computer games and robotic training aids used in this trial attempted to simultaneously improve function of both together. Specific games were used to improve hand/arm coordination, accuracy and speed, while other simulations helped to restore precision of grip and individual finger motion. After training for two-three hours a day for eight days, all of the patients showed increased control of hand and arm during reaching. They all had better stability of the damaged limb, and greater smoothness and efficiency of movement. Kinematic analysis showed that they also had improved control over their fingers and were quicker at all test tasks. In contrast their uninjured arm and the arms of control game players, who had normal hand/arm function, showed no significant improvement at all. The researchers report that: “Complex gaming simulations interfaced with adaptive robots requiring integrated control of shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist and finger movements appear to have a substantial effect on improving hemiparetic hand function,” thus lending them to conclude that: “We believe that the magnitude of the changes and the stability of the patient's function prior to training, along with maintenance of several aspects of the gains demonstrated at retention make a compelling argument for this approach to training.”
Merians AS, Fluet GG, Qiu Q, Saleh S, Lafond I, Davidow A, Adamovich SV. “Robotically Facilitated Virtual Rehabilitation of Arm Transport Integrated With Finger Movement in Persons with Hemiparesis.” Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2011, 8:2, 16 May 2011.