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Use of Wii Balance Board may help patients with MS

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June 2, 2009: Visitors step on Nintendo Wii Balance Boards as they play the new Wii Fit Plus game during the Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 in Los Angeles. (REUTERS)

Nintendo's Wii Balance Board is making waves in the medical community as a new study has found that it can help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) reduce the risk of accidental falls.

In the study, published in Radiology, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results showed that use of the game console accessory led to favorable changes in brain connections associated with balance and movement.

MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and causes the body’s immune system to attack the protective sheath around nerve fibers. As a result, communication between the brain and body is disrupted, leading many patients to experience problems with balance— making them prone to falls.

Researchers examined the MRI results of 27 patients who used the Wii Balance Board for 12 weeks. The board requires users to shift their weight to dictate a character’s actions on the television screen.

According to the results, MS patients were found to show significant effects in nerve tracts that are important in balance and movement.  

“The most important finding in this study is that a task-oriented and repetitive training aimed at managing a specific symptom is highly effective and induces brain plasticity,”  lead study author Luca Prosperini of Sapienza University in Rome, Italy said in a press release.

However, the benefits from using the board ceased after patients stopped training with it.

“This finding should have an important impact on the rehabilitation process of patients, suggesting that they need ongoing exercises to maintain good performance in daily living activities,” Prosperini, said.