New Video Game Helps Stroke Victims Recover

UPDATED: Monday December 2, 2013 9:12 PM

As we head toward Christmas, many people will be in the market for a video game. 

Now, OSU researchers have created one themselves.  It's called "Canyon Adventure".  But it's only for a select audience.

Tom Brown sat in a virtual boat and paddled up a river in the family room. It's a video game with more than fun in mind. It's a form of therapy for his own medical disaster, which began in May, two years ago.

"All of a sudden I noticed that the cars ahead of me had four tail lights instead of two; I had developed double vision," Brown said.

He already had an appointment with his doctor that morning, so when he mentioned the double vision, his physician sent him to the emergency department at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. Then, while he was there, Brown suddenly felt worse.

"I felt my right arm go numb.  Shortly after that I felt my right leg go numb. I was having a stroke."

As part of therapy to improve movement on his right side, OSU researchers gave him homework, a therapeutic video game for patients with partial paralysis on one side.

It requires players to try different activities designed to encourage different types of movement.

For instance, Brown had to pick apples, paddle around floating boxes, grab leaping fish out of the water, or snag parachutes falling from the sky. 

Each time he did it, he was awarded points or prizes in the game.

"You need a lot of hours of therapy to make a substantial change," said principal investigator Lynne Gauthier. 

She said one problem with recovery after strokes, is that people get bored with home exercises, or can't drive to therapy.

"One of  the biggest barriers to accessing therapy is transportation. So we wanted to make it, this therapy that we know works really well,  very accessible to folks in their own homes," she said.

Patients wear a mitt on their stronger hand so they'll use the weaker one.

Though they get initial direction from physical therapists like Linda Lowes, they can work at their own pace.

Lowes said therapists can alter the game to keep challenging patients to improve.

"It's amazing because it's so dramatic and in such a short time." Lowes said.

Brown agreed.  He said that the with the game his mobility improved, and it's fun.

Gauthier says OSU is preparing a business plan, and hopes to market this therapeutic video game within a year.

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