Studies have shown that the popular video game, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), which requires players to coordinate their movements to the beat of music, may help improve balance and mobility in certain patient populations. Now, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are the first to test the game's ability to help decrease the cognitive and physical effects of multiple sclerosis (MS).
An estimated 2.1 million people have multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable inflammatory disease which progressively impairs nerve function in the brain and spinal cord. While studies with the elderly and Parkinson's patients have shown exercise can slow cognitive decline and improve coordination, similar information is lacking for patients with MS, leaving clinicians without data to help guide prescription of exercise programs.
"The video dancing game provides a good platform for our research because it addresses multiple issues that MS clinicians and patients face. We think our data will not only help doctors and therapists make good clinical recommendations, but provide an evidence based, in-home tool for patients that helps overcome access and cost issues associated with long term physical therapy," says Anne Kloos, PhD, PT, NCS, associate clinical professor of health and rehabilitation sciences in the Ohio State College of Medicine.
Kloos became interested in DDR as a potential therapy by conducting an earlier study of individuals with Huntington's disease. In that study, Kloos and her colleagues found that the interactive video game was a fun way to boost motivation and provide a mental and physical workout, in addition to being a convenient way to deliver physical therapy.
In early 2012, Kloos received a grant from the Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) to examine the effects of DDR on mobility, brain plasticity and cognition in individuals with MS. In the ongoing trial, participants exercise using DDR three times a week for eight weeks. The patients' cognitive functions are tested at the beginning and end of the trial, and functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging is used to detect brain circuitry changes.
"DDR requires a lot of cognitive processing. Players must look at a screen and time their movements to the arrows on the screen," said research team member, Nora Fritz, DPT. "Incorporating DDR into standard MS treatments has the potential to improve balance, walking, cognition and motivation."
Fritz recently received a supplementary grant from the CCTS to expand the work started by Kloos, and is being mentored by both Dr. Kloos and Deborah Larsen, PhD, PT, Director of the Ohio State School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. With the additional funding, Fritz will investigate the differences in dual tasking abilities between individuals with MS and healthy controls and whether playing DDR will improve dual tasking abilities.
Many people diagnosed with MS feel as though they have been given a life sentence of incapacitation. Kloos and Fritz are looking to restore hope and improve the quality of life for patients suffering from this disease, something that study participants feel they are achieving.
"Participating in the study and doing the dance program has helped me feel healthier and more independent. And that is really exciting," says Tracy Blackwell, a study participant.
The trial is still enrolling patients.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center