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Playing Video Game May Boost MS Patients' Balance: Study
Date:8/26/2014

By
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- An exercise component of the popular Nintendo Wii video game may help multiple sclerosis patients improve their balance by rewiring their brains, a new study suggests.

No medications exist to preserve balance in MS patients, and some drugs make balance worse, said study lead author Dr. Luca Prosperini, a neurologist at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy.

It appears that patients who use the Wii Balance Board five days a week -- moving to snowboarding or dance games, for example -- may help reduce their risk of falls and boost certain brain connections, possibly because they're coordinating their movements with a figure on a screen, Prosperini said.

There are caveats to the research, however. The study was small, and there's a risk that patients could hurt themselves by falling, although they can play seated rather than stand on the balance board.

"Patients with MS should be encouraged to start using this system only under supervision," Prosperini said. "Once well-trained, they may use it at home."

Multiple sclerosis is a nerve disorder that affects how the brain communicates with the body.

"Balance problems are quite common and arise due to the effects of MS on a number of functions that are important for balance," said Nicholas LaRocca, vice president for health care delivery and policy research with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Among other things, MS can disrupt vision, coordination and the body's balancing mechanism, he said.

Patients turn to a variety of strategies to support balance, he said. Canes and orthotic devices (shoe inserts) help some people, and rehabilitation can build strength and coordination. Some patients try electrical muscle stimulation to maintain
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