Video Games for Stroke Rehabilitation

Video Games for Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke rehabilitation research reveals many exciting new ways to recover after a stroke. The science of neuroplasticity reveals that the brain is able to change and adapt well into adulthood, proving that the brain can heal after a stroke.

Some of the new methods used to repair damage after a stroke include electrical stimulation, music therapy and stem cell therapy.

And now video games are being used as an enjoyable and practical rehabilitation technique for stroke survivors!

Recent scientific research has proven that video games can be used in beneficial ways to stimulate brain function and recovery after a stroke. Video games that challenge thinking skills or muscle skills can contribute to the regrowth of connections between different parts of the brain to help in stroke recovery. A research study published in the March 2014 Journal, “Clinical Rehabilitation,” evaluated 36 adult patients who had strokes within the previous 3 months and found improvement in balance after playing a standing video game.

How to Choose Video Games for Stroke Recovery

  • Gradually increasing level of difficulty- The most likely way to benefit is to play a game featuring progressively more difficult tasks that help cultivate the skills and abilities of the player. 
  • Not addictive- Games with addictive potential just keep using the same skills over and over again. In moderation, such amusements may be nice leisure activities and pleasant escapes, but they only serve to develop one isolated, often useless, skill.
  • Thinking about things from different angles- It is more advantageous to learn to overcome a problem (or get game points) by looking at things literally from different angles and points of view, instead of, for example, always looking at things on a flat plane, or always recognizing the red object. A game that challenges the player to look in many directions and to approach a problem in several different ways is likely more beneficial.
  • Creative – A game that requires some creative thinking in terms of how to solve a problem is more helpful than a very simplistic game that features only a few choices. A game that requires the player to put together interesting combinations can add more challenge and thus develop a wider range of skills.
  • High-level strategy- The more complex a game, and the more elements the player has to think about, the more challenging and stimulating. However, just as in real life, if there are too many unattainable challenges, the game can become frustrating and pointless instead of exciting and beneficial. The key is to work your way up to more advanced challenges gradually.

Thus far, video games are a relatively new idea in stroke rehabilitation. It is likely that in the future, further research may help evaluate the potential benefits of video games for coordination, thinking skills, language and complex deficits such as neglect.


Retraining and assessing hand movement after stroke using the MusicGlove: comparison with conventional hand therapy and isometric grip training, Friedman N, Chan V, Reinkensmeyer AN, Beroukhim A, Zambrano GJ, Bachman M, Reinkensmeyer DJ, Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, April 2014

Bower KJ, Clark RA, McGinley JL, Martin CL, Miller KJ, Clinical feasibility of the Nintendo Wii™ for balance training post-stroke: a phase II randomized controlled trial in an inpatient setting, Clinical Rehabilitation, March 2014.

Lee G, Effects of training using video games on the muscle strength, muscle tone, and activities of daily living of chronic stroke patients, Journal of Physical Therapy Science, May 2013

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