VIDEO GAMES BENEFIT MS PATIENTS

A new study published in the journal Radiology suggests that regularly playing video games on the Nintendo Wii balance board system may help patients with multiple sclerosis regain some balance. Around 2.5 million people worldwide suffer from MS and the disease affects many young adults.It’s often challenging for MS sufferers to stay active, especially considering that their symptoms can occur at any time. Patients often relapse and remit and are never entirely sure of how active they’ll be able to be. From 2009 to 2013, the MS community showed interest in what became known as the “liberation treatment,” a surgical option developed by an Italian doctor, but recent research suggests that the treatment is ultimately ineffective. There is no current known cure for MS, but there are treatment options that can encourage a speedy remission after attacks.The balance board of the Nintendo Wii system could become a treatment option after further testing.

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.The immune system attacks myelin, a protective coating on the nerves, and the damage disrupts communication between the body and brain, causing those with MS to lose some control of balance and movement.Severe cases of MS can prevent sufferers from walking independently. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are wide-ranging and can last for days, weeks or months at a time. Most people with MS experience symptoms for a duration of days or weeks and then can go months or even years before experiencing the symptoms again.These lengthy periods of remission are perhaps one of the most complicated aspects of the disease, as patients can never be entirely sure of when the symptoms will reappear.

In most cases, relapsing-remitting MS eventually leads to a steady progression of symptoms with little or no period of remission.Some MS sufferers experience an onset of symptoms without relapses known as primary-progressive MS.7 Signs and symptoms of MS include:

  • Numbness in any area of the body, often occurring on one side of the body at a time.
  • Pain with eye movement, blurred vision or complete loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Muscle spasms or a tingling sensation in the limbs.
  • Lack of balance or coordination, often affecting the ability to stand or walk.
  • Dizziness and fatigue, especially as MS progresses.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your physician.

Nintendo Wii potentially benefits balance

Researchers followed 27 patients in a 24-week study, using MRIs to reach the conclusion that the Nintendo Wii balance board led to the development of white matter tracts that are linked to balance.8 Half of the subjects were tasked with using the Wii system five days a week for 30-40 minutes for three months, while the other half went without any intervention.Then the roles were reversed for another three months. The growth of the white matter tracts suggests that the Wii balance board is a viable means of physical rehabilitation for those with MS. Researchers believe this can benefit MS patients by reducing the risk of accidental falls.10 Perhaps the only downside of the study is the small sample size, but if more MS patients adopt the idea and see improved balance from the Nintendo Wii balance board system, the novel device could find an unexpected salutary purpose.

The “liberation treatment” found ineffective

Italian surgeon Paolo Zamboni first published a study in 2009 theorizing that MS was not an autoimmune disease, but rather caused by cerebrospinal venous insufficiency. Zamboni stated that he found CCSVI in 100 percent of patients with MS and from there developed a surgery to treat the condition.11 The seemingly quick fix attracted many people in the MS community, though the invasive procedure hadn’t undergone enough testing to be considered safe or effective. A more recent study by researchers at the University of Buffalo found that Zamboni’s surgical option was safe, but ultimately did not provide any sustained improvement for those suffering from MS.12 The researchers of this study advise MS patients to consider enrolling in trials testing the surgery rather than paying for it out of pocket, considering there is no guarantee it will be effective.

For many MS patients, the debilitating symptoms of the disease may encourage them to seek out any possible treatment. In this specific case, more research needs to be done before any conclusions can be made.

1“Nintendo Wii Balance Boards Help MS Patients Stay Steady” by Kathleen Lees. Science World Report. August 26, 2014. http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/16824/20140826/nintendo-wii-balance-boards-help-ms-patients-stay-steady.htm

2“Multiple Sclerosis” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026689

3“Multiple Sclerosis” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026689

4“Multiple Sclerosis” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026689

5“Multiple Sclerosis” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026689

6“Multiple Sclerosis” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026689

7“Multiple Sclerosis” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026689

8“Multiple Sclerosis: Changes in Microarchitecture of White Matter Tracts after Training with a Video Game Balance Board” by Luca Prosperini, MD, PhD, Fulvia Fanelli, MD, Nikolaos Petsas, MD, PhD, Emilia Sbardella, MD, PhD, Francesca Tona, MD, Eytan Raz, MD, Deborah Fortuna, MS, Floriana De Angelis, MD, Carlo Pozzilli, MD, PhD, Patrizia Pantano, MD. Radiology. August 2014. http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/abs/10.1148/radiol.14140168?queryID=%24{resultBean.queryID}

9“Multiple Sclerosis: Changes in Microarchitecture of White Matter Tracts after Training with a Video Game Balance Board” by Luca Prosperini, MD, PhD, Fulvia Fanelli, MD, Nikolaos Petsas, MD, PhD, Emilia Sbardella, MD, PhD, Francesca Tona, MD, Eytan Raz, MD, Deborah Fortuna, MS, Floriana De Angelis, MD, Carlo Pozzilli, MD, PhD, Patrizia Pantano, MD. Radiology. August 2014. http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/abs/10.1148/radiol.14140168?queryID=%24{resultBean.queryID}

10“Video Game Can Help MS Patients Reduce Falls” by Robert Glatter, MD. Forbes. August 26, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2014/08/26/video-game-can-help-ms-patients-prevent-falls/

11“A Controversial ‘Cure’ for M.S.” by Paul Tullis. The New York Times. October 26, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/a-controversial-cure-for-multiple-sclerosis.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

12“MS patients did not benefit from CCSVI intervention, landmark pilot study of ‘liberation treatment’ finds” by Ellen Goldbaum. UB News Center. March 15, 2013.  http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2013/03/021.html

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