Researchers from Indiana University and Rutgers have been testing whether a specially designed video gaming system can help children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy improve their hand coordination. The results are promising, and underscore the value of modifying underlying technologies to suit the needs of the patients.
The three study participants were asked to exercise the affected hand about 30 minutes a day, five days a week using a specially fitted sensor glove linked to a remotely monitored videogame console installed in their home. Games, such as one making images appear ("sliders") were custom-developed at Rutgers, calibrated to the individual teen’s hand functionality, included a screen avatar of the hand, and focused on improvement of whole hand function.
"Popular off-the-shelf games are targeted to people with normal hand and arm function and coordination. These games don’t work for or benefit those with moderate-severe hemiplegic cerebral palsy and many other disorders that affect movement. They just aren’t made to be used by or improve hands that can’t pinch or grasp" said Golomb [Dr. Meredith R. Golomb, Indiana University School of Medicine associate professor of neurology].
In the future, physical therapists could remotely monitor patients’ progress and make adjustments to the intensity of game play to allow progressive work on affected muscles.
Press release: Virtual reality tele-rehab improves hand function
Abstract in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: In-Home Virtual Reality Videogame Telerehabilitation in Adolescents With Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy