UCI Medical Center for Neurology uses video games to help stroke patients

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- The neurology department at University of California, Irvine has unveiled an ongoing clinical trial that uses video games to help stroke patients rehabilitate.

Kevin Irish just finished a 12-week trial using the new therapy.

"Fun, and it was a great way to... help me be accountable to do my exercises everyday," said Irish.

One year ago, Irish had a stroke. His whole right side was paralyzed. He struggled to learn how to walk again and to use his right arm. When he was approached about the clinical trial through the neurology department, he signed up right away.

"Six weeks of aggressive arm rehab produce substantial gains that are equivalent whether you're in the clinic or getting it at home," said Dr. Steven C. Cramer, UCI professor of neurology.

Cramer and his team created a gaming system that is delivered to a patient's home. It uses different attachments and interactions to ensure patients are completing their therapy at home. Doctors are also able to use video conferencing to check on their patients. Using games like Blackjack, Duck Hunt and others, the team found stroke patients improved their motor skills and were able to do so in the comfort of their own homes.

"We sit together, a group of us, occupational therapists, physical therapists, neurologists, programmers, gamers, and we ask how can we get people to move more, do more rehab, get better," said Cramer.

Since the start of the trial, Irish's walking has improved as well as his use of his right arm. He hopes others seek out innovative rehabilitation like this.

"I'm always looking for something that's going to help me get better," said Irish. "I'm a long way away from where I'd like to be, but I've come a long way as well."

Cramer hopes to expand the trial to include longer time frames and other therapies.
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