Wii computer games to help stroke victims

Stroke victims are being nursed back to health by playing on the smash-hit games console Nintendo Wii.

Doctors have discovered the game helps to rewire the brain after it has been damaged by a blood clot. Unlike most computer games, the Nintendo Wii involves acting out all the physical movements involved in normal sports, such as tennis, golf or boxing. The player strikes the ball or throws a punch by swinging their arms and pressing a button on a hand-held controller.

Doctors in the U.S. have started to use it to help stroke victims regain movement in their arms and legs. German clinicians are also reported to be using it to speed up recovery in injured soldiers.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in England and Wales, after heart disease and cancer. The NHS spends an estimated £2.8 billion a year dealing with the aftermath of strokes.

They occur when the blood supply to the brain is cut off because of a clot in a blood vessel in the head. Blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen to the brain and, without it, cells become damaged or destroyed. Any damage has a knock-on effect on things most of us take for granted - such as lifting a cup or brushing our hair.

Six months after a stroke, around 50 per cent of survivors need help with everyday tasks like eating, dressing and going to the toilet.

Doctors know that intensive physiotherapy can help the brain 're-learn' how to move the limbs.
Although brain cells cannot regenerate once they have been damaged or killed, the brain can be trained to find new ways of getting messages to the arms and legs. It does this by recruiting other undamaged nerve cells to set up new 'pathways', through which instructions can be passed.

But to do this requires prolonged and repeated therapy, during which patients must try to move their paralysed limbs. It can take months of intensive exercises before results are seen.
American experts believe the Nintendo Wii could be a fun and cheap form of therapy.

Researchers at the Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis have started experimenting on patients who find conventional exercises too tedious.

Source - Daily Mail

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