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Video Games Might Aid in Stroke Rehab
Date:4/8/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Playing video games while recovering after a stroke appears to promote arm strength and function, Canadian researchers find.

"Stroke rehabilitation is rapidly evolving. Novel approaches -- including the use of virtual reality [gaming] systems -- may help improve motor impairment, activities and social participation," said lead researcher Dr. Gustavo Saposnik, director of the Stroke Outcomes Research Unit at St. Michael's Hospital at the University of Toronto.

"Virtual reality may provide an affordable, enjoyable and effective alternative to intensify treatment and promote motor recovery after stroke," he added.

Up to 75 percent of stroke patients experience motor problems, including weakness, paralysis or difficulty with balance and coordination that can affect their quality of life. Conventional therapy provides only "modest and sometimes delayed effects" in treating these disorders, according to Saposnik.

The new study findings are published in the April 7 online edition of the journal Stroke.

To find out whether video games could play a role in stroke rehabilitation, Saposnik's team performed what is called a meta-analysis. In this type of study, investigators search the published literature to find studies related to the theory they are interested in testing. They then pull data from these studies and pool the results to come up with a conclusion.

In this case, they found 12 studies that included a total of 195 patients, aged 26 to 88 years, who had suffered a mild to moderate stroke. Each study reported the effects of electronic games on upper arm strength and function.

Of these studies, seven were observational and five were randomized trials. Observational studies are those in which researchers observe behavior but without trying to influence behavior or the outcome -- such as comparing smokers with
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