A Wii Board and a Website for Better Balance, Movement and Brain Health
A friend recently sent an article relating to MS that she thought would be of great interest to me. She was right.
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) announced that a balance board from a popular video game improves balance and movement by changing brain interactions in people with MS.
NOTE: The Nintendo Wii fitness balance board, an accessory of the Wii video game console, is a battery-operated body scale containing four pressure sensors and using Bluetooth technology. It measures a user’s center of balance. After stepping onto the board the user shifts their weight while they interact with games, such as slalom skiing.
Movement is interpreted by sensing the user’s weight and balance.
Researchers conducted a small study of 27 MS patients using a non-conventional MRI technique called “diffusion tensor imaging” to track changes for 12 weeks by analyzing white matter tracts that transmit nervous signals through the brain and body.
The study showed significant changes that correlate with balance and movement and, according to lead author Luca Prosperini, M.D., Ph.D, “are likely a manifestation of neural plasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt and form new connections throughout life.”
“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,” he said. “More specifically, the improvements promoted by the Wii balance board can reduce the risk of accidental falls in patients with MS, thereby reducing the risk of fall-related comorbidities like trauma and fractures.”
After reading this study two thoughts came to mind:
- The Wii game first appeared when my son was older and not interested in it. I couldn’t justify the cost for myself. After reading this study, I realized there might be others with similar financial concerns who’d be interested in producing their own balance board.
- I enjoy repetitive games, and if they can provide a means toward better balance and movement (as it says in the study), bring them on!
I spoke with my friend and colleague, Ruth Curran, about my thoughts. Her website, Cranium Crunches, is all about better brain health. It provides many choices of exciting and innovative games, making it an “online brain training site.” Her games are so much fun that you don't realize the workout your brain is receiving while it's improving your cognitive abilities, such as attention and focus.
According to Ruth, “Every game and app my company uses is based on the premise that brain games help fire pathways in the brain. It keeps the chemicals and electricity that nourish and fire the brain active and moving.’
‘There is so much research out there now to support the tangible benefits of playing a variety of games and working on a variety of skills. The unifying theme is that active brains not only age more slowly, but injured brains can also heal, re-wire and open new pathways through an activity.”
Ruth, along with her husband Dan, took it upon themselves to address my second thought about creating an inexpensive balance board. Using unused sponges and a round piece of wood, they illustrated how we can build our own balance board.
According to Ruth, you can simply stack more and more sponges on top of one another according to your own individual skill level. Ruth explained, “Lay the board on top of the sponges. I tried to fall off on purpose but I couldn’t. No Velcro is needed." (NOTE: For the purpose of safety, please have someone stand next to you, or hold onto something secure.)
I hope you are as excited as I am about all of this good news. Having fun while improving balance, movement and cognitive functioning sounds to me like a good recipe for a better quality of life!
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