A popular video game may help improve balance and movement in patients with multiple sclerosis.
The Nintendo Wii’s balance board allows users to shift their weight as they simulate actions like skiing, soccer or hula hoop.
Balance impairment is among the most common and debilitating symptoms of MS, a disease of the central nervous system where the body’s immune system attacks the protective sheath around nerve fibres. But MRI scans have shown that use of the balance board appears to induce positive changes in brain connections associated with balance and movement.
The improvements to patients’ balance didn’t persist without continued practice though, said lead author Dr Luca Prosperini, from Sapienza University in Rome, said
Researchers used DTI, a non-conventional MRI technique that allows detailed analysis of the white matter tracts that transmit nervous signals through the brain and body. They studied changes in the brains of 27 patients who used the balance board for 12-weeks.
“The most important finding in this study is that a task-oriented and repetitive training aimed at managing a specific symptom is highly effective and induces brain plasticity,” said Dr Prosperini.
Brain plasticity is the brain’s ability to to adapt and form new connections.
“This finding should have an important impact on the rehabilitation process of patients, suggesting they need ongoing exercises to maintain good performance in daily living activities,” Dr Prosperini added.