According to a press release published by the Radiological Society of North America the very popular video game console, Wii, can help people with multiple sclerosis (MS). For patients with MS, the risk for serious head and extremity injuries can increase with the duration of the autoimmune disease therefore, falls are a very serious concern. Caregivers and researchers are always taking initiatives for ways to lessen the occurrence of falls and the new discovery that the infamous Wii Balance Board does just that is the talk of every town!
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans recorded that the use of the Nintendo Wii Balance Board system induces advantageous changes in brain connections associated with balance and movement. In the study, researchers used an MRI technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to record any changes in the brains of the 27 MS patients who underwent a 12-week intervention using the Wii balance board-based visual feedback training. DTI is a non-conventional MRI technique that allows detailed analysis of the white matter tracts that transmit nervous signals through the brain and body.
The results of the Wii balance board study provided good news for caregivers, researches, and MS patients. The MRI scans of the MS patients presented compelling growth within the nerve tracts that are significant in balance and movement. The changes recorded from the MRI results correlated with improvements in balance and were measured by an assessment technique known as posturography. The brain changes discovered in the MS patients are likely a manifestation of neural plasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt and form new connections throughout life, according to lead author Luca Prosperini, M.D., Ph.D., from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy (Source: RSNA Press Release).
Dr. Prosperini also noted that the exact mechanisms behind the phenomenon remain unknown. However, he believes that the modifications may be related to myelination, through which a protective covering is generated and encompasses the nerves. It is important to note that the associated improvements found with the Wii balance board did not persist after the patients discontinued protocol. Prosperini explains, that continuous training is necessary in order to promote ongoing and lasting changes in the brain and that could be one explanation.
“The most important finding in this study is that a task-oriented and repetitive training aimed at managing a specific symptom is highly effective and induces brain plasticity,” Prosperini said. “More specifically, the improvements promoted by the Wii balance board can reduce the risk of accidental falls in patients with MS, thereby reducing the risk of fall-related comorbidities like trauma and fractures.” He believes that these recent findings should provide important information and practice platforms for the rehabilitation process of patients, suggesting that the ongoing exercises are needed to maintain positive performance in their every day activities.