AHA Logo Just a few days ago, the medical section stumbled upon novel tactile devices to rehabilitate the hands and arms after experiencing stroke. And here is another means to benefit stroke patients. According to a latest study, virtual reality (VR) and other video games can significantly improve arm strength after experiencing a stroke. This may be an affordable, enjoyable and effective way to intensify treatment.

At the time of the study, investigators scrutinized seven observational and five randomized trials that included a total of 195 patients in the age group of 26 to 88 years. All the participants had previously suffered mild to moderate strokes. While analyzing the probable effects of electronic games on upper arm strength and function, experts registered an average 14.7 percent improvement in motor strength after virtual reality sessions. A 20 percent average improvement was supposedly observed in motor function, or the ability to perform standard tasks.

Patients who played virtual reality games reported a statistically significant 4.89 times higher chance of improvement in motor strength than those who received standard therapy. Between 55 percent and 75 percent of stroke survivors allegedly continued facing motor deficits that hampered their quality of life. However, conventional therapy may offer modest and sometimes delayed effects. It was suggested that training designed to maximize the brain’s remodelling potential can be challenging, repetitive, task-specific, motivating and unique.

“Virtual reality gaming is a promising and potentially useful alternative to enhance motor improvement after stroke. Virtual reality gaming therapy may provide an affordable, enjoyable and effective alternative to intensify treatment and promote motor recovery after stroke,” commented Gustavo Saposnik, M.D., M.Sc., lead author of the study and director of the Stroke Outcomes Research Unit at St. Michael’s Hospital at the University of Toronto.

Video-gaming, especially virtual reality systems possibly allow players to interact with a multisensory simulated environment via a wireless controller and receive real-time feedback on their performance. Virtual reality systems apparently provide real-time feedback so encourages positive reinforcement. It also delivers multi-sensorial feedback, including vision, hearing and sensory perception, along with computer-assisted movement. The systems simple graphics and potential modifiable speed may enhance cognitive impairment in a wide range of patients.

Authors mention that some of the video game systems benefiting stroke patients are Glasstron, IREX, Playstation, Eye Toy. Also virtual reality systems such as Virtual Teacher, CyberGlove, VR Motion, PneuGlove and Wii appear helpful. The study findings apparently have great significance in the health world.

The study is published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.