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.