News ArchivesRead News
Computer Games Help People with Parkinson's Disease
Wednesday October 26, 2011
USCF - Playing computer-based physical therapy games can help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their gait and balance, according to a new pilot study led by the UCSF School of Nursing and Red Hill Studios, a California serious games developer.
More than half the subjects in the three-month research project showed small improvements in walking speed, balance and stride length.
UCSF and Red Hill were the first research team in the United States to receive federal funding in the burgeoning field of low-cost computerized physical therapy games. Unlike off-the-shelf computer games, these specialized games encourage scientifically tested specific physical movements to help people with functional impairments and diseases.
Teams at Red Hill and UCSF collaborated to produce nine “clinically inspired’’ games that were designed to improve coordination in people with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, progressive neuromuscular disease characterized by shaking, slowness of movement, limb and trunk rigidity. The clinical team members at UCSF focused on specific body movements and gestures that their previous research had shown to be beneficial for staving off the physical declines of Parkinson’s.
The UCSF team was led by Glenna Dowling, RN, PhD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Physiological Nursing, and Marsha Melnick, PT, PhD, a clinical professor in the UCSF School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science and professor emerita of the Department of Physical Therapy at San Francisco State University.
The Red Hill team then designed physical games, similar to Wii and Kinect games, in which subjects win points by moving their bodies in certain ways. Each game has multiple difficulty levels so that the clinical team could customize the therapeutic games for each subject’s particular abilities.
“Each subject found his or her own gaming ‘sweet spot’ — the spot where the physical challenge was not too hard, not too easy, just right,’’ said Bob Hone, creative director of Red Hill Studios and the lead principal investigator of the study. “And when subjects mastered one game level, they often moved on to harder levels for more beneficial effect. The subjects improved their games scores while improving their gait and balance.’’
Red Hill developed a custom sensor suit with nine tracking sensors to analyze subjects’ movements with higher resolution and accuracy than is possible with consumer gaming platforms. The PC-based system sent encrypted data to a secure database allowing the research teams to track the subjects’ performance daily.
“From the data tracking we could see that there were some subjects who were playing the games more than the specified three times a week,’’ Hone said. “Because this was a highly structured research study, we actually had to ask them to play less than they wanted.’’
The trial involved 20 participants in northern California with moderate levels of Parkinson’s disease. After playing the games for 12 weeks, 65 percent of game players demonstrated longer stride length, 55 percent increased gait velocity, and 55 percent reported improved balance confidence.
“These initial studies show the promise of custom-designed physical therapy games promoting specific movements and gestures that can help patients get better,’’ Dowling said. “Now that we have this preliminary positive result, we want to conduct a longer term clinical trial with more subjects to confirm these initial findings.’’
The study was funded by two Small Business Innovative Research grants totaling $1.1 million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke — part of the National Institutes of Health.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.
Red Hill Studios is an award winning serious games developer that creates interactive games for health, online science games, and immersive museum exhibitions. It also conducts research into new educational and health gaming paradigms. Red Hill is based in San Rafael, CA.
Recent NewsOct 18 - Brain disconnections may contribute to Parkinson's hallucinations
Oct 18 - Fighting Parkinson's disease through dance
Oct 17 - Scientists Identify Structure of PINK1, Key Parkinson’s-protective Protein
Oct 17 - Diabetes drug cuts Parkinson's risk by 28 percent, study finds
Oct 10 - Advances in Brain Pacemaker Reduces Tremors, Helps Parkinson's Sufferers Live a More Normal Life
Oct 10 - Medical History Could Help Predict Parkinson's Disease Risk Long Before Diagnosis
Oct 3 - Changes in Olfactory Bulb Explain Loss of Smell in Early Stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Study Finds
Oct 3 - Sleep Disturbances May Worsen Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease, Study Suggests
Sep 12 - Australian Researchers Develop New Diagnostic Tool to Spot Early Signs of Parkinson’s
Sep 11 - GeneFo Webinar to Focus on Using Humor to Manage Parkinson’s Disease
Sep 6 - Parkinson’s and the ‘D’ word
Sep 6 - Compounds in Asthma Drugs Might Be Used as Parkinson’s Treatment
Sep 5 - AstraZeneca Joins Takeda, Berg to Advance Development of Parkinson’s Disease Therapies
Sep 1 - Stem Cell Transplant Trial in Parkinson’s Patients Planned After Test in Japan Succeeds in Monkeys
Sep 1 - Titan to Start Phase 1/2 Study of Subdermal Implant to Deliver Requip to Parkinson’s Patients
Aug 30 - FDA Refuses Acorda’s Inbrija New Drug Application Due to Manufacturing Questions
Aug 23 - Support Groups: Are They for You?
Aug 22 - Internet Visits with Parkinson’s Specialist Can Be as Effective as In-person Visits, Trial Finds
Aug 21 - Cavion’s New CMO to Lead Cav3 Platform Development for Neurological Diseases
Aug 15 - Singing Helps Early-stage Parkinson’s Patients Retain Speech, Respiratory Control, Studies Show