A new computer game, Circus Challenge, just might help stroke patients to do more than enjoy the circus. Newcastle University neuroscientists in England have created the interactive games where players work to master the skills necessary in a circus. While enjoying themselves at the games, users don’t realize that they are actually using specific hand, arm and wrist movements that help patients to regain control of limbs that have been weakened from a stroke.
Janet Eyre, a professor of pediatric neuroscience, is hoping that the games can help with patient rehabilitation when used consistently at home. As Professor Eyre explained, “The brain can re-learn control of the weak arm but this needs frequent therapy over many months and there are not enough therapists to provide this on a one-to-one basis. Patients need to be able to use both their arms and hands for most every day activities such as doing up a zip, making a bed, tying shoe laces, unscrewing a jar. With our video game, people get engrossed in the competition and action of the circus characters and forget that the purpose of the game is for therapy.”
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The first of the games, paid for by the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, could be on sale early next year. Certainly, those who created the games hope that they can create similar models for cerebral palsy sufferers, for dementia and more.
Dr. Peter Coleman, of the Stroke Association, explained that the medical cuts have decreased the amount of physiotherapy that patients can receive. Video games of this sort can be used in tandem with physiotherapy to help patients. He warned, however, that “It’s important that they do not replace physiotherapists but instead support the vital work they do.”