Engineers at Rutgers University have adapted Sony’s Playstation 3 video game console to help cerebral palsy (CP) patients improve hand function. Although initial trials were limited to a select few patients, all participants had markedly improved their ability to perform a broad range of daily activities.
Setting Up The Game
Patients used a commercially available gaming glove to control a modified Playstation 3. Custom software was designed to be played with the gaming glove, providing exercise routines to challenge a player’s hand speed, dexterity and finger range of motion.
The First Game: Dexterity Tests
The game testing range of motion begins by having players make a fist and then open their hand as far as possible. The thumb and each finger’s movement was measured and mapped to a pleasing image on the screen, which had been obscured by grey blocks. As a player moved their fingers, the grey areas were removed, revealing parts of the image. Displaying the full image was only possible by increasing their range of motion. A game clock added a sense of urgency, and sound gave their actions audible results, increasing the immersive experience of the game.
The Second Game: Butterflies, UFOs And Mosquitoes! Oh My!
The second game tested finger velocity – how quickly the players could move each finger. Similar to the first game, range of motion was established by opening and closing their fist. A hand appeared on the screen, representing the hand of the player. While wearing the glove, if the player opened their hand, the on-screen hand would open simultaneously, for example. Once baselines were established, a butterfly or UFO would fly across the screen and need to be shooed away. Players accomplished this by fluttering their fingers. If a player didn’t move their fingers fast enough, the butterfly would linger around the hand until scared off or until the game ended. If the player’s finger velocity was fast enough to beat the UFO, it would lose control and crash with corresponding explosion and crash noises. If the player was unsuccessful, the UFO would blast the hand with a shrink-ray, causing the hand to turn green and shrivel away. Also, throughout the game a mosquito would attempt to sting the hand. If the player was unable to scare it away (via fluttering), the onscreen hand would flash red and an unpleasant noise was made by the game. As the player improved, the game was made more challenging by increasing the speed of the butterflies or UFOs (and mosquitoes).
Each test subject showed improvement in dexterity, range of motion and hand strength during and after playing these games. While cerebral palsy can be a complex and difficult condition to treat, promising signs from studies such as this one continue to give hope to CP victims and their families.
If you or a loved one has cerebral palsy, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Brain Injury Law Center; our attorneys specialize in neurological conditions and cases related to them. We offer a free consultation to help you determine your best option to get the help you deserve.