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Physiatry Experts Find Computer Games Help Parkinson’s and ICU Patients

Posted by floriza in Physiatry

Two separate physiatry studies have found that specialized computer/video games help both Parkinson’s patients and patients in intensive care units to improve movement function

A study conducted by the University of California School of Nursing along with Red Hill Studios has shown that certain specialized computer games can assist Parkinson’s patients in improving their ability to walk and maintain balance. Red Hill Studios is a company that creates physiatry (physical therapy) games.

The researchers studied 20 Parkinson’s patients for a period of 12 weeks. The computer games used were similar to Wii, and while playing, the patients wore a suit with nine sensors that tracked and encouraged specific movements. Like most computer games, the patients received points for their progress and could move on to levels of greater difficulty. The patients enjoyed the process so much that they wanted to continue playing after the specified time controlled for the study.

The conclusion of the study was that 65 percent of the 20 Parkinson’s patients were able to lengthen their strides while walking. Another 55 percent were able to walk faster than before, and 55 percent also said they felt they were able to balance better.

Video Games and ICU Patients

Another study conducted at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine utilized video games in a physiatry program for 22 patients in the intensive care unit. The critically ill patients were all adults and were studied for one year. Most of the patients were men over the age of 31 but younger than age 65, and they were admitted to the hospital for a variety of diseases. The study was published in the Journal of Critical Care.

Forty-two 20-minute therapy sessions with the patients were conducted during the study, including boxing, bowling, and balance board games on Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit. The sessions were conducted with a physiatrist present.

The patients reported that they enjoyed the games, which were chosen to specifically rehabilitate loss of function.

Physiatry in New Jersey and other states uses such rehabilitation exercises to help patients with movement impairments as a result of injuries or disease to restore as much function as possible.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s, a chronic and progressive disease, is a motor system disorder. It occurs when the body stops producing enough of the chemical, dopamine, in the brain. Symptoms include tremors and difficulty performing movement tasks, including walking, turning a key, maintaining balance, and other activities that involve coordination. The symptoms are highly individualized, however, varying from one patient to another.

Eventually, Parkinson’s Disease can lead to difficulty in swallowing, controlling urinary function, and dementia. The disease is currently both difficult to diagnose and treat. Medications are available that help to manage the disease, but there is no cure as yet.


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