The University of California San Francisco School of Nursing and Red Hill Studios, an educational games startup, have collaborated to help people with Parkinson’s disease by developing a suite of therapeutic games. After a recently concluded three month pilot study, the researchers showed that playing computer-based physical therapy exercises can help people with Parkinson’s improve their gait and balance.
The collaboration between the two teams led to nine specialized games designed to improve the coordination of the specific patient group. The clinical team focused on specific movements and gestures previously shown to be beneficial in the fight against cognitive deficits of Parkinson’s disease. The game developers designed the exercises in a concept similar to Wii and Kinect games, in which people use their body as the game controller. They also developed a custom sensor suit to better analyze movements than currently possible with the available consumer gaming gear.
The goal was to get the patients to improve game scores while improving their gait and balance. The gaming systems were put in the subjects’ houses and the system sent data to the research team to track the performance of each subject on a daily basis. The results of the pilot study revealed that more than half of the 20 participants showed small improvements in walking speed, balance and stride length.
Considering the positive results of the pilot study, the team wants to conduct a longer term clinical trial involving more subjects to confirm the data. So in time there might be a possibility that computer games will have their place in the official treatment protocols for certain diseases.
Press release: Computer Games Help People with Parkinson’s Disease …
Project page: Games for people with Parkinson’s Disease