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Grant to accelerate development of multiple sclerosis therapy video game

A National Multiple Sclerosis Society grant will help researchers at The Ohio State University develop and test an interactive video game as an MS therapy.

Originally developed as a rehabilitation therapy for stroke patients, the “Recovery Rapids” video game targets upper extremity motor impairment, a common complication of stroke and MS. Rehabilitation plays a critical role in managing the symptoms of progressive MS, estimated to affect more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

MS therapy video gameBy incorporating a Microsoft Xbox Kinect body action sensor in the patient’s home, the game recreates constraint-induced (CI) movement therapy typically administered only in the clinic. In the immersive, interactive game, patients propel and guide a kayak and manipulate items in the surrounding environment. This in-home delivery option addresses access and affordability limitations that may prevent patients from experiencing the proven benefits of CI therapy.

The interdisciplinary research team is led by Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Associate Professor Roger Crawfis, Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Lynne Gauthier and CSE grad student David Maung.

“CI therapy has been shown to be a promising motor rehabilitation for MS,” Crawfis noted, “so we hope that our gamified version of it will be a viable in-home alternative for people with hand and arm weakness from MS.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Pilot Research Grants are intended to quickly test novel ideas. Funding is provided for one year to test innovative, cutting-edge ideas or untested methods, and to gather sufficient preliminary data to apply for longer-term funding.

Preliminary research suggests that motor decline in progressive MS could be partially reversed by the proposed CI therapy-based gaming intervention. The Ohio State researchers will use the $44,000 grant to fund a controlled-setting clinical trial to assess feasibility and initial efficacy of “Recovery Rapids” among MS patients.

“Rehabilitation options are very limited for the MS population and, for those who do have access to rehabilitation, transportation to a clinic is often challenging and worsens fatigue,” said Gauthier. “We are looking forward to working with the MS community to customize the game-based intervention and to capture meaningful outcomes.”