Stroke experts in the United Kingdom from Newcastle University have been working with Limbs Alive to create action-focused games that help patients overcome physical side effects through therapeutic gameplay that can be used at home. Limbs Alive was founded by Professor Janet Eyre and occupational therapist Janice Pearse in partnership with Newcastle University and The Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust. The team at Newcastle University received a £1.5m award from the Health Innovation Challenge Fund to allow for further development of the game software.
When someone suffers from a stroke, arm and hand control can be weakened. While patients can recover from this it takes a long time and requires months of expert daily therapy. Using Limbs Alive's first game, "Circus Challenge," patients can do much of their physical therapy at home – in conjunction with consultations from experts. This is the first action video game designed specifically to be played at home that provide an expert therapy program.
"The brain can re-learn control of the weak arm but this needs frequent therapy over many months and there are not enough therapists to provide this on a one-to-one basis," said Professor Eyre. "Eighty percent of patients do not regain full recovery of arm and hand function and this really limits their independence and ability to return to work. Patients need to be able to use both their arms and hands for most every day activities such as doing up a zip, making a bed, tying shoe laces, unscrewing a jar. With our video game, people get engrossed in the competition and action of the circus characters and forget that the purpose of the game is therapy."
Using wireless controllers, players participate in activities such as lion taming, juggling, plate spinning, high diving, and flying the trapeze. The games are meant to encourage patients to work their way through increasingly difficult levels of movement designed to gradually build up the strength and skills of the patient. Circus Challenge employs what Limbs Alive calls "next-generation motion controllers" and has special features within the game that can be adjusted to varying degrees of ability. The games are designed to address gross and fine motor skills, while keeping in mind that the user is someone who has had a stroke.
Limbs Alive plans to create a whole library of games that help make therapy fun and effective for patients suffering from other conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Lung Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Dementia.
Source: Health Canal