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Researchers find Nintendo’s Wii useful in treating Parkinson’s disease

Despite all the scrutiny aimed at Nintendo by console gamers as of late, it seems like Nintendo is still a force in other areas.  Researchers developing therapies for people with Parkinson’s disease have found that patients practicing their balance on the Wii Balance Board will reduce their risks of falling.

According to the study, patients who utilized the Wii equipment in conjunction with other treadmill and cycling exercises increased their Tinetti Score 18 from about 22.3 to 26.6.

“The ability of the Wii Balance Board to stimulate the central nervous system makes it potentially useful in the rehabilitation of balance problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” said Antonella Peppe, PhD, and research professor at Fondazione Santa Lucia in Rome.  “Our results allow us to confirm that the Wii is an excellent tool that can compete with other devices in the rehabilitation of Parkinson’s disease.”

Also in the study, the researchers revealed that patients who exercised 60 minutes a day showed improved posture and balance.  Within those 60 minutes, it is worth noting that 20 minutes is allocated to playing three different Wii games, 20 minutes on treadmill, and 20 minutes for cycling.

Thus, it is relatively safe to say that the researchers’ use of the Wii equipment contributed to only a portion of the patients’ overall stability improvements.  Nevertheless, it’s still quite impressive to see that modern medicine is finding use for the Wii, even if its big brother (the Wii U) is still trying to find a place in gamers’ hearts.

The adaption of gaming-related technologies to the health field has increased over the years. With things like Kinect making their way into the surgery room, it’s nice to see researchers applying ‘affordable’ consumer tech to their studies instead of using ridiculously expensive one-of-a-kind equipment.

Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U may not boast the on-screen eye candy that most consolers like, but perhaps the consoles’ application in the health sector will help to give the company a much needed boost during a time in which many gamers have already made up their minds about which ‘next-gen’ console they’ll own.


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