New Video Game for Stroke Patients to Recover Faster!

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A stroke makes limbs weakened and the patient becomes unable to move it, to the extent of being totally dependent. If the patient is to be made to move his or her limbs, months of therapy should be given, because brain has to learn the process of controlling the limbs again. Mental determination too is very important on the patient’s part, which is often lost during the process. And the biggest problem is getting the right aids in time, viz. finances, time and therapist. But stroke patients and their relatives will be happy to know that the neuroscientists have now evolved a novel video game for the patients to help them recover faster.

The game has been named as Circus Challenge. It is the first among a coming library of action video games and has been designed by the stroke experts of Newcastle University along with a new company Limbs Alive. The movements involved in controlling the video game have been designed in such a way that they enable the patient’s brain to re-learn the process of controlling their disabled arms and hands.

The researchers of Newcastle University have received an award of £1.5 million from the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, which is partnered by the Department of Health and Wellcome Trust, to continue further research. The research will be towards enabling a therapist to monitor the patient playing the game at home through telemonitoring and decide his or her further steps.

Janet Eyre, a pediatric neuroscience professor, observes that 80% of stroke patients don’t recover fully from the arm and hand disability and so their autonomy and ability to return to work is limited. Janet Eyre is the one who has set up Limbs Alive for the production of these games.

For most of the daily activities, both the arms and hands are needed, like while preparing bed, tying shoe lace or zip or buttons or opening a jar.  With Circus Challenge series of video games patients get absorbed in the action and competition of the characters in the game and forget that it is a therapy.

To learn various skills in the game, wireless controllers are used by the patients. The skills are utterly captivating like juggling, taming of lion, trapeze and high diving. As they succeed in them, they are encouraged to learn more complicated quests which require higher amount of skill, coordination and strength.

Experience of 68-year old Danny Mann, who was a ship builder and had never played a video game before trying Circus Challenge after he had a stroke in February 2012, is heartening. Mann has to do the therapy exercises though they are dull, because they are necessary, but after playing Circus Challenge he feels encouraged for taking his therapy. He is looking forward to share a game with his grandchildren which he thinks the best motivation.

Circus Challenge has been designed in such a way that players at different skill levels can compete with each other. For the players bound to wheelchairs or having restricted mobility the game is convenient and at the same time fun, in which is the key to their recovery.


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