Computer games help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder at the level of the central nervous system which results from the death of the cells that produce dopamine in the region of the midbrain.
Most cases occur in patients after the age of 50 and the most common symptoms are slowness of movement, shaking, difficulty with walking and in more advanced stages even dementia.
According to this group of researchers from California, playing specialized computer games
can provide help for patients suffering from Parkinson to improve their balance and gait.
In order to complete these games, specific physical movements are required.
The research team came up with nine games which focus on these specific movements and gestures which have proved to be important for delaying the appearance of the physical symptoms of the patients.
Each game has several levels in order for the researchers to be able to customize the difficulty of the game in accordance with the severity of the symptoms.
After finding a level at which they were confortable moving without too much difficulty, patients often moved to harder levels voluntarily in order to observe the effects of the game for their balance and gait.
The researchers also developed a sensor costume which contained nine sensors used for tracking the patients’ movements with accuracy. The data sent from the sensors was saved in a database which allowed the scientists to have daily tracking details about the patients’ evolution.
The results of the study showed that 55% of the patients had a higher balance confidence, 65% had longer stride length and 55% had a higher gait velocity and more than half showed improvements in walking from the first three months of the research.
The study was based on a partnership between UCSF School of Nursing and Red Hill Studios, a company producing video games, which came up with the concept of the game and the suit.
The study was funded through two grants received from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The game can be seen following this website: http://www.redhillstudios.com/#/projects/games/pdwii/