A pair of Purdue University professors have been using the Nintendo Wii to help the treatment of people suffering from Parkinson’s it was revealed today.
Jessica Huber and Jeff Haddad from the College of Health and Human Sciences are studying how playing specially created games on the Nintendo console can help those suffering from the illness.
According to the researchers, playing games on the Wii can improve a patient’s movement, speech and overall quality of life.
The duo has been using the Wii’s balance board peripheral, along with the famous Wii-motes, to help patient’s motor skills.
The researchers use these tools study how brain activity and body movement are connected, which often comes into play in seemingly simple everyday tasks like walking and talking – aspects of life which can often be difficult for people with Parkinson’s.
“We’re looking at being able to do things in their house that may be challenging, like put away groceries when you have to stand on your toes and reach for cabinets, or to cook and communicate at the same time” said Jeff Haddad, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology.
“All these things that people, when they’re younger, take for granted that get more difficult to perform as they get older, and even more so if they have some sort of neuromuscular disease.”
So far, the research has found that the specifically-designed games, when utilized for a prescribed period of time, tended to show more positive outcomes in gait and balance than traditional Parkinson’s treatments.
Huber – who specialises in speech, language and hearing – notes the games also bolster these areas in a patient.
“As speakers, we typically take pauses at set locations – a major thought, a minor thought, not really in the middle of a thought,” Huber said. “After therapy with this, their pauses were more typically placed. They didn’t pause as often in unexpected locations.”
The experiment has been used to monitor the progression of a patient’s condition.
“The therapist can check in on the patient wirelessly and they can see if they’re doing their exercises, they can see how they’re doing, they can call them back if they seem to be falling behind,” Huber said.
“I also think, when you have a population with a mobility impairment, treating them in the home is critical”
This isn’t the first time videogames have been used to treat conditions such as Parkinsons.
Last year, MyCognition’s cognitive measurement tool, MyCQ, was used to assess participants’ cognitive function in their own homes.
MyCQ, developed with support from the University of Cambridge by a leading group of cognition experts, combined over 200 years of neuropsychiatric research in a self-administered 30-minute assessment, so it can be safely and easily used by patients in the comfort of their own homes.
The engaging training programme, which adapts to individuals based on their MyCQ score, was produced by BAFTA-winning, videogame studio Preloaded.
A pilot study involving 40 participants were approached in the trial, with the aim of extending this to 222 patients in total.
It’s hoped that more and more tools like videogaming can be helped to improve the quality of life for all of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s around the world.