Video games and VR help stroke patients recover mobility

Sensor glove may help stroke patients recover hand motion

Two Canadian university research programs have found significant improvements in hand motion and strength in stroke patients.

A Biomedical Sensor Glove that helps stroke patients recover hand motion by playing video games has been developed by engineers at McGill University.

The glove allows patients to exercise in their own homes with minimal supervision. Patients can monitor their own progress using software to generate 3D models and display them on the screen, while sending information to a treating physician.

Similar gloves currently cost up to $30,000. By using more accurate and less expensive sensors, the engineers were able to develop a glove that currently costs $1000 to produce. It is hoped to eventually go on the market for about $500.

Researchers at the Stroke Outcomes Research Unit at St. Michael’s Hospital at the University of Toronto have also shown that video games, as well as VR systems, lead to significant improvement in arm strength following stroke.

Researchers analyzed seven observational and five randomized trials, representing a total of 195 patients, ages 26 to 88, who had suffered mild to moderate strokes. Each study had investigated the effects of electronic games on upper arm strength and function.

Most patients played 20 to 30 hours during four to six weeks of therapy on one of several computer-based technology systems: three traditional video game systems  and nine virtual reality systems, including Virtual Teacher, CyberGlove, VR Motion, PneuGlove, and Wii.

The researchers found that there was an average 14.7 percent improvement in muscular strength after playing virtual reality games, and a 20 percent average improvement in the ability to perform standard tasks.

Ref.: Gustavo Saposnik et al., Virtual Reality in Stroke Rehabilitation: A Meta-Analysis and Implications for Clinicians, April 7 online edition, Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association

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