Purdue University Studying How Video Games Could Battle Parkinson's Disease

Edward Kim  |

Professors at Purdue University have been researching how the playing of specially created video games may be able to improve movement, speech and overall quality of life for patients with Parkinson's disease.

Jessica Huber, PhD, and Jeff Haddad, PhD, from Purdue's College of Health and Human Science are studying how brain activity and body movement are connected in patients who stand on a balance board while trying to hit a specific target on a monitor in front of them. The misconnection between the brain and body comes into play in seemingly simple everyday tasks like walking and talking, which can be difficult for people with Parkinson’s.

According to Dr. Haddad, a pilot study conducted in collaboration with researchers at Purdue, Indiana University and the University of Calgary, examining Parkinson’s patients along with otherwise healthy older adults, revealed that the games, when utilized for a prescribed period of time, tended to show more positive outcomes in gait and balance than traditional Parkinson’s treatments.

Source: WISH TV, Channel 8, Indianapolis

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Emily Kinzer, of WISH TV News, describes the game as a repurposed Wii board and set up like a game of Simon (Hasbro, NYSE: HAS). Patients step on the Wii balance board (Nintendo, OTC: NTDOY) and are tasked with repeating a sequence by balancing and moving their bodies to move the cursor on the screen.

We’re looking at being able to do things in their house that may be challenging, like put away groceries when you have to stand on your toes and reach for cabinets, or to cook and communicate at the same time. All these things that people, when they’re younger, take for granted that get more difficult to perform as they get older, and even more so if they have some sort of neuromuscular disease.

- Jeff Haddad, PhD, associate professor, Department of Health and Kinesiology at Purdue

Ms. Kinzer reported that the professors hope that the game could be on the market "within the next couple of years" for home use. There is also a software application on the drawing board that would transfer game data to a therapist to keep track of progress. Dr. Huber also has noted indications that the game may be helping Parkinson's patients with speech therapy.

As speakers, we typically take pauses at set locations - a major thought, a minor thought, not really in the middle of a thought. After therapy with this, their pauses were more typically placed. They didn’t pause as often in unexpected locations... The therapist can check in on the patient wirelessly and they can see if they’re doing their exercises, they can see how they’re doing, they can call them back if they seem to be falling behind. I also think, when you have a population with a mobility impairment, treating them in the home is critical.

- Jessica Huber, PhD, professor, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at Purdue

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