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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Minecraft and Tetris could help effects of Parkinson's disease

April 13, 2017

Researchers at Bangor University looking into advantages of computer games

Aaron Pritchard, from BCUHB Research and Development with Dr Charles Leek, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Bangor University’s School of Psychology, and Dr Rudi Coetzer, Consultant Neuropsychologist & Head of Service, BCUHB, and Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neuropsychology, School of Psychology, Bangor University

Computer games such as Minecraft and Tetris could help the effects of Parkinson's disease, according to research by North Wales neuroscientists.
The study is being led by experts at Bangor University, working alongside the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Walton Centre in Liverpool. 
They are looking into the the effects of touch screen “spatial reasoning games” on the part of the brain used to control movement in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Tetris is a Soviet tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov. It was released in 1984. Touch screen versions are now available on tablets.
Early research involving 16 people with Parkinson’s suggests computer games, which require users to perform tasks like using mental imagery to rearrange shapes to fit a physical space, could help stimulate one of the impaired areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s and improve motor function.
Led by Dr Charles Leek, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Bangor University’s School of Psychology, the initial study showed evidence Parkinson’s patients were able to move faster and initiate movement more easily following a period of “cognitive stimulation” on the computer games.
They have now received a £33,000 in funding for a second study involving 60 people with Parkinson’s, which aims to examine the potential benefits of computer-based intervention in greater detail.
Bangor University 
Professor Leek said: "This project was born out of research we completed in 2001, using the School of Psychology’s research dedicated MRI scanner and brain imaging techniques to study how different parts of the brain are involved in controlling our movements and other brain functions.
"We’re trying to apply some of the understanding we have of how the normal brain works to help improve motor control in people with Parkinson’s.
"By having patients perform simple computer based tasks we hope to be able to effectively stimulate specific parts of the brain affected by the disease, which could lead to improved motor function.
"These kinds of tests are incredibly simple and involve people making judgements about visual spatial relationships."
Aaron Pritchard, from BCUHB Research and Development and a co-applicant on the study team said: “There is a wide range of expertise involved in this project. Here in North Wales, we have a long-established portfolio of research into non-drug based interventions for Parkinson’s.
“This project makes a key contribution to helping us better understand the relationship between spatial awareness and movement in Parkinson’s, and how this might be used to develop future therapies.”
Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease of the nervous system characterised by muscle rigidity, tremor, poor balance and slow movement.

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