Playing Nintendo Wii may help treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including depression, said Dr. Ben Herz, program director and assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy in Georgia, who conducted an eight-week pilot study.
Dr. Herz theorized that the popular computer game console, which simulates various sports and activities, could improve coordination, reflexes and other movement-related skills, but he found additional benefits as well.
In the study, 20 Parkinson’s patients spent an hour playing the Wii three times a week for four weeks. The patients, all in a stage of the disease in which both body sides are affected but with no significant gait disturbance yet, played two games each of tennis and bowling and one game of boxing-games entailing exercise, bilateral movement, balance and fast pace.
“By the middle of the study, we actually had a number of people who could defeat their opponent in the first round, which amazed us,” said Dr. Herz, who presented his preliminary findings last year at the fifth annual Games for Health Conference in Boston.
“The Wii allows patients to work in a virtual environment that’s safe, fun and motivational. The games require visual perception, eye-hand coordination, figure-ground relationships and sequenced movement, so it’s a huge treatment tool from an occupational therapy perspective.”