MEXICO CITY, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- To speed up the recovery of patients suffering from impaired upper-limb mobility, medical researchers in Mexico have turned to an unusual source: video games.
Neuroscientists at Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM) have developed a series of video games to help patients with impaired hand or arm mobility caused by cerebrovascular accidents.
Thanks to neuronal plasticity -- the ability of the brain to continuously generate new connections, patients can benefit from rehabilitation therapy by repeatedly performing certain movements, neuroscientist Ana Maria Escalante told Xinhua.
"At what point we begin the therapy is very important," said Escalante, "this is where our rehabilitation plays a significant role."
Escalante said this new type of rehabilitation helps patients to exercise as soon and as often as they can, since patients can download the video games in advance and practice in the comfort of their own home, which is a big advantage of this novel therapy.
The video games were created with Unity, a cross-platform game engine, to strengthen the control of shoulder muscles, elbows and wrists, as well as fingers and hand-eye coordination, said Yoas Ramirez, the technician at the UNAM's Interactive Applications Research and Development Laboratory for Neuro-Rehabilitation (LANR).
Among the games developed by the LANR is "Mole-Crisis," in which a mole needs to be whacked before it runs and hides. In another game, players are goalkeepers and have to stop as many penalty kicks as possible.
Both games require patients to use their shoulders, arms and hands.
There are also touchscreen games, including "Sandwichmania," in which players could practice their fingers by selecting ingredients for their sandwiches.
"Another device we use is live motion, which is similar to Kinect (a motion sensing accessory) but more specific for the hand," said Ramirez.
"That enables us to detect the movement of opening and closing of the hand, though we have a bit of problems with finer movements," he added.
"Some video games are still in the prototype stage, but we hope to take them to health centers and specialists for the benefit of the patients," said Ramirez.