Computer consoles can help improve the lives of people with the neurological disease Parkinson’s, researchers have found.

Scientists said games with sensors − used in consoles like the Nintendo Wii and accessories such as the Xbox Kinect − were found to aid symptoms of those with the degenerative brain condition taking part in the study.

Computer games have the potential to motivate people to keep active

An in-depth study with Parkinson’s sufferers at Lancaster University found that video games involving the movement of players acted as a form of physical therapy.

Researcher Emmanuel Tsekleves said: “Muscles and joints tend to become stiff and rigid, which is why exercise is crucial in managing some of the symptoms.

“However, physiotherapy exercises are very repetitive in nature leading to boredom and de-motivation and hence lack of adherence.

“Computer games have the potential to motivate people to keep active by implicitly incorporating repetitive exercises into the games.”

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 120,000 people in the UK, and six million across the globe. Sufferers include former boxing champion Muhammad Ali, comedian Billy Connolly, and actor Michael J Fox.

Researchers have been adapting and testing computer games to be used as physical therapy and believe people with Parkinson’s should be involved in the design of these games.

Tsekleves said: “Our research involved participants with Parkinson’s using commercially available gaming sensors like the Nintendo Wii and computer games designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease.

“The key was in taking physio­therapy exercises and translating them into game play movements.

“The games help at improving the player’s speed and arm movement, improving flexibility and reducing rigidity. One involved the control of a two-paddled row boat, while the second, the steam mini-golf game, asked the player to rotate a valve to release steam to push a ball into a hole.”

The researchers, who also included teams from Brunel University and Queen’s Belfast, found that the more familiar games based on simple exercises worked best.

Commenting on the study, David Burn, Parkinson’s UK clinical director, said: “Studying the effects of exercise on Parkinson’s is an underexplored but exciting area of research.

“We know that games like those on Nintendo Wii can be a great way to help people with Parkinson’s improve their stiff movement, as well as their general fitness levels. “This study is only in a handful of people, and needs to be replicated in larger numbers, but the results are promising.”

Earlier this year, experts at Newcastle University began investigating the benefits that Google Glass could have on Parkinson’s sufferers.

The technology works like a hands-free smartphone displaying information on the lens of the glass.

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