If you’re a regular visitor to strokemark.com, you’ll know we’re big fans of virtual reality (VR). And not just for the escapism. VR is increasingly being used in clinics, where specialized devices can support patients in their post-stroke arm/hand recovery. While this approach is effective, specialized equipment can be costly. Sometimes the costs are prohibitive for smaller clinics. And when you add the human cost of long waiting lists and limited access, one thing is clear. There is an overwhelming need for more accessible technologies that can benefit patients in post-stroke rehabilitation. Could it be possible that the solution comes in the form of video gaming? According to a group of researchers in Turkey, it might just be.
Testing the Kinect system
The researchers investigated the value of using the Xbox gaming system in conjunction with the Kinect VR system, which allows users to interact with the games through movement rather than through the use of a traditional games controller, to promote recovery in stroke-affected areas of the brain. They recruited 40 patients with chronic stroke, 20 of whom participated in regular ‘gaming’ sessions over four weeks alongside standard physical therapy. The researchers chose games designed to provide the upper body with what the researchers called ‘high-dose repetitive intensive rehabilitation’ from the KineLabs software platform.
The benefits of gaming
In terms of gaming, the Kinect system provided an interesting new environment for rehabilitation —in terms of benefit, its value was undeniable: not only did the gamers get to improve their high scores, they showed greater improvements in arm/hand function than those patients who had physical therapy only.
So when it comes to post-stroke arm/hand rehabilitation, it seems it might pay to play. So why not ask your therapist about Kinect — it can do more than just improve your high scores.
The lead author of this study is Ayhan Aşkın, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Izmir Katip Celebi University, Izmir, Turkey.