Multiplayer video game improves rehab in patients recovering from stroke

A multiplayer mobile game that puts physically impaired patients with able-bodied individuals has shown to improve rehabilitation, according to a study published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.

In this study, researchers examined the effects and feasibility of the Balloon Buddies video game in improving the rehabilitation of patients recovering from a stroke by engaging and playing with healthy partners. The game requires users to work together to balance a ball on a beam. Researchers hope this team activity would improve motor learning and increase motivation through social interaction.

"Video games are a great way of providing repetitive exercise to help patients recover from debilitating illnesses. However, most games are designed for users to play on their own, which can actually discourage and isolate many patients,” said Michael Mace, PhD, MEng, lead author from the department of bioengineering at Imperial College London. “We developed the Balloon Buddy game to enable patients to train with their friends, family or caregivers in a collaborative and playful manner. The technology is still being developed, but we have shown that playing jointly with another individual may lead to increased engagement and better outcomes for patients."

In the study, researchers enrolled 32 pairs of healthy individuals and 16 pairs of a healthy and impaired people. The group results were compared in performance, score, target tracking, stability, effort and smoothness. Overall, the performance of the impaired participants were improved by the dual-player mode.