Video games can be good for your health

Stroke patients, once considered too disabled to regain function in their affected limbs, are now showing signs of recovery because of a new therapy that utilises the Nintendo Wii.

Dr Penelope McNulty, a neurophysiologist at Neuroscience Research Australia, will present new data that shows the Wii is an effective rehabilitation tool at an international conference of the Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology in Brisbane on Friday, July 20.

Dr McNulty’s data shows that an intensive, two-week training program based on the Wii can result in significant improvements in the way stroke patients are able to use their limbs, even for people that had a stroke many years ago.

“It was previously thought that the movement and function stroke patients had at the time they left hospital was the only recovery they would make,” Dr McNulty said.

“We have worked with people who have had strokes one month to 21 years ago, and excitingly, they all improve.”

There are mroe than 60,000 strokes in Australia each year and there is a crucial need to improve rehabilitation methods because this is the only method known to restore movement in stroke-affected limbs.

“The Wii is inexpensive, easy to use and, very importantly, fun. This type of rehabilitation motivates participants to actually complete their therapy, which is essential for maximum recovery,” Dr McNulty said.

“Everyone notices improvements not just using the Wii, but in activities they do every day, such as opening a door or using a fork,.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is caused by a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain that means the affected area(s) of the brain cannot function.

To recover from a stroke either the brain can recruit new areas to carry out the affected function or grow new pathways around the damaged area.

What is Wii-based Movement Therapy?

Wii-Based Movement Therapy consists of one hour training sessions for 10 consecutive weekdays using the Wii Sports: tennis, golf, boxing, bowling and baseball.

Patients used the Wii remote in their more affected hand to control play and augment their formal therapy with up to three hours of home practice per day.