Stroke researchers launch Wiicycling program

Researchers are asking gamers who have recently upgraded to the new Nintendo Wii U to donate their old Wii consoles to a stroke rehabilitation project.

The Wii U was released in Australia last November and features high-definition graphics and a new wireless control panel. Original Wii consoles are still in demand, however, particularly by a research group from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) that is studying the use of the Wii to help stroke survivors restore movement to their limbs.

The research group, led by neurophysiologist Penelope McNulty, has pioneered Wii-Based Movement Therapy, an intensive, 10-day training program using the Wii that improves the way stroke patients are able to use their arms and legs.

Dr McNulty is asking gamers who have upgraded to Wii U to help out stroke survivors who need the machines for rehabilitation but can’t afford them.

“There are over 60,000 strokes in Australia each year and there is a crucial need to improve rehabilitation methods because this is the only method known to restore movement in stroke-affected limbs,” Dr McNulty said.

“The Wii is inexpensive, easy to use and, very importantly, fun. This type of rehabilitation motivates participants to actually complete their therapy, which is essential for maximum recovery.

“As the Wii U is phased in, I’m hoping people will donate their old consoles and accessories, so stroke survivors that want to do this therapy but can’t afford a Wii, can begin the long road to recover.”

A trial of the therapy that can be delivered online has recently begun in Armidale in NSW, conducted at the Armidale Broadband Smart Home, set up to demonstrate the potential applications of the NBN including home automation, remote health monitoring, video conferencing, rehabilitation, education and sensor monitoring.

One-hour formal therapy sessions are being held for 10 consecutive weekdays using Wii Sports tennis, golf, boxing, bowling and baseball, with added homework.

Patients are using the Wii remote in their more affected hand to control play and augment their formal therapy, with daily home practice that progressively builds towards three hours per day over the program.

“We know that the more therapy stroke patients have, the better their recovery,” Dr McNulty said. “We are developing new ways of delivering therapy to patients in the comfort of their own homes, rather than asking people to travel to therapy, and Armidale is our first test site.”

See the NeuRA Wiicycle website to learn more about donating your Wii or to support the research.

Posted in Aged Care

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