Researchers propose video game therapy to improve mobility in stroke patients

Researchers at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) in San Sebastian and the London Imperial College have analyzed the architecture of brain injuries in stroke patients. Based on the findings researchers propose new therapy using video games for mobility problems. The study is published in the PNAS journal.

According to the BCBL expert David Soto, “patients with brain injuries in attention control areas also suffer motility control problems, even when the movement required by the task is very simple”.

The scientists focused on exploring the extent and location of brain injuries in 167 stroke patients for more than three years. Through a ‘mapping’ performed with magnetic resonance, they identified the affected part and the type and size of the lesion, and analyzed the connectivity between the different areas of the brain. Next, they subjected the patients to various motor tasks, some very simple, such as grabbing an object with force. After the tests, the researchers found that these tasks were “impaired” in those patients who had injuries in the area of the brain “involved” in attention.

The experts emphasize the importance of the brain areas related with attention control in the control of movements, which “may also suggest some therapeutic routes”, such as complementing “mobility therapies based on physiotherapy with another type of cognitive training that increases the attention of patients”. One example would be the work with video games.

David Soto explains that before this study it was thought that the control of movement and the attention control aspect were “different systems” with little relation to each other, and that the treatments enabled for the patients with cognitive injuries could not serve for those who had mobility problems. However, the conclusions of this research have shown otherwise.

“We have to know first how our brain controls and moves to design effective therapeutic tools for stroke patients and specific therapies for each individual depending on where the injury has occurred,” concludes Soto.

To confirm these results, the next step will be to establish a clinical trial with patients suffering motor skills disorders due to a stroke and divide them into two groups: one of them undergoing physiotherapy treatment and the other with complementary cognitive training.

Citation:¬†Rinne, Paul, Mursyida Hassan, Cristina Fernandes, Erika Han, Emma Hennessy, Adam Waldman, Pankaj Sharma, David Soto, Robert Leech, Paresh A. Malhotra, and Paul Bentley. “Motor dexterity and strength depend upon integrity of the attention-control system.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, no. 3 (2017). doi:10.1073/pnas.1715617115.

Adapted from press release by FECYT – Spanish Foundation For Science and Technology.