A stroke can affect a wide variety of functions including movement, sensation, and cognition. Fortunately, the brain is capable of recovering these functions, and video games can provide an entertaining way to do this. You’re about to discover how the brain and body can recover through fun and interactive video games for stroke patients.
How Video Games Can be an Effective Form of Therapy for Stroke Survivors
When a stroke impairs certain functions, such as movement or thinking, these functions can often be recovered. The phenomenon responsible for this recovery is neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to rewire itself and strengthen neural connections. The brain is constantly adapting itself to become more efficient at the skills you frequently practice. This is how highly repetitive, task-specific practice can help recovery after stroke; and this is where video games for stroke patients come into play.
Video games offer an effective form of therapy because they help keep users engaged and encourage repetitive practice of specific skills. For example, active video games can help improve mobility when the survivor repetitively practices a movement during a video game.
Also, video games help improve cognitive functions such as visual attention, memory, and reaction time because they engage the user with various feedback like visual, auditory, and sometimes haptic feedback.
Although video games are generally seen as more popular with the younger generation, they are a great and engaging way to promote stroke recovery at any age. For those who are uncertain about buying a specific video game due to price or concerns regarding its focus or difficulty level, many video games are available at local libraries to borrow free of charge!
Wondering how you can get started? The following section will share some excellent video games for stroke patients that can help promote recovery.
The Best Video Games for Stroke Patients
The most effective video games for stroke survivors will encourage players to perform the most repetitions of the exercises and activities necessary to stimulate the brain and promote neuroplasticity.
Below, we’ll share some fun and engaging video games that can help stroke patients develop their motor control or cognition.
1. Brain Age
Video games that exercise cognitive skills such as memory and concentration can help improve critical thinking after stroke. Our favorite is Brain Age, a Wii game full of brain-boosting activities that you can play by yourself or with friends.
The cognitive exercises included in this video game are inspired by the works of neuroscientist, Ryuta Kawashima. The brain is capable of making adaptive changes and improving functions based on the behaviors you repetitively practice. Therefore, Kawashima’s research highlights the importance of consistent brain training to improve cognitive functions like processing speed and executive functions.
2. Wii Sports
Wii Sports is a video game that can be extremely helpful for stroke patients trying to regain movement in their affected side. It includes various interactive games including bowling, golf, and tennis. Wii Sports encourages individuals to practice the skills required to play sports such as hand-eye coordination, proprioception, and motor control.
A bonus is that some Wii Sports games can be played either seated or standing. So, if you are working on improving your balance, playing a game standing (with a caregiver or therapist to supervise) can be extra challenging.
Additionally, if the movements required in Wii Sports are no longer challenging, you can consider using light wrist weights while playing to continue building strength.
If you’re looking to improve hand functions after a stroke, the MusicGlove is an excellent rehabilitation device that targets the fingers. It combines video gaming, music, and hand therapy together to encourage individuals to perform the high number of repetitions necessary to improve hand functions after stroke.
It’s similar to Guitar Hero, but it’s designed specifically for stroke survivors with hand weakness. MusicGlove encourages users to practice tapping their fingertips together. Developing this hand function can help individuals perform everyday tasks such as twisting a doorknob or picking up an object.
Stroke survivors who want to improve movement throughout their entire body can benefit from trying another video game-like neurorehab device called FitMi. It includes 40 exercises that target the hands, arms, core, and legs. FitMi challenges stroke patients to perform a certain number of rehabilitative exercises within a given timeframe.
It also adapts to your ability level to ensure you’re being challenged the perfect amount to keep you motivated without getting overwhelmed or discouraged.
5. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) video games can serve as a form of escapism for stroke patients by allowing them to immerse themselves in a world of limitless possibilities. By wearing a headset, users can interact with a variety of virtual simulations that mimic the real world.
Virtual reality provides a multisensory experience that motivates users to perform the task-specific exercises necessary to promote neuroplasticity. Depending on the game, virtual reality can help stroke survivors improve various skills including balance and motor control.
6. PhysioFun Balance Training
A stroke often causes weakness or paralysis on one side of the body. Consequently, it can become challenging for individuals to maintain their balance. Physiofun Balance Training is a video game designed to make post-rehab exercise more accessible. With Physiofun, stroke patients can practice various balance-developing physical therapy exercises without the need for different types of equipment.
This video game uses the Wii Balance Board to measure the user’s balance skills. Various scenarios and challenges are presented that encourage stroke survivors to engage their core and find their center of gravity.
7. CT Speech and Cognitive Therapy
CT Speech and Cognitive Therapy App is a video game that can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet. This provides easy access to cognitive training activities whenever you want.
It includes over 100,000 speech and cognitive training exercises that can help you develop a wide range of functions, including:
- reading comprehension
- problem solving
- visual processing
Additionally, the game’s smart artificial intelligence (AI) technology adapts to your ability level to provide a personalized rehabilitation experience. As you improve, the recommended exercises will also increase in difficulty.
Differences is a free app that encourages stroke patients to develop their visual processing and attention skills. In this game, two almost identical images are presented. Individuals are challenged to see how many differences they can spot between them. This game is ideal for stroke survivors who are trying to develop their concentration skills because it includes many different difficulty levels and allows them to take their time.
9. Fruit Ninja Kinect
Fruit Ninja Kinect is a video game designed to be played on the XBOX Kinect. The XBOX Kinect is a motion-sensing device that allows you to use your body rather than a controller to interact in a game.
The premise of Fruit Ninja Kinect is to use your arms to cut through all the pieces of fruit in the air. This simple game is ideal for stroke survivors looking for a fun way to add more physical activity to their daily routine.
Video Games for Stroke Recovery: Key Points
When used correctly, video games can serve as an effective form of rehabilitative therapy for stroke patients. To promote recovery after a stroke, individuals must play games that engage the skills affected by their specific stroke.
For example, if a stroke affects your memory, you must consistently practice video games that engage memory skills. This helps the brain understand that there is a demand for those functions and encourages it to reorganize its neural circuitry.
Many stroke survivors struggle to stay motivated and perform the repetitions necessary to influence neurological adaptations. Video games help keep individuals engaged and challenge them to keep practicing.
We hope this article helped you understand how video games can be used as an effective way to promote recovery of both motor and cognitive skills after a stroke.