Study finds Nintendo Wii games may improve balance for people with MS

By Aditi Pai

Wii Fit balance boardA small study found that patients with multiple sclerosis who played a high-instensity video game on a Nintendo Wii saw improvement in the microstructural changes of their brains, which in turn improved the participant's balance.

While MS has many symptoms, one symptom is loss of balance.

Researchers conducted the trial to determine if the video game would help result in changes of a patient's cerebellar peduncles, which is the area of the brain responsible for coordination. The specific Wii device used in the trial is the balance board, which is a Nintendo accessory that senses a user's foot movement and incorporates it into the game.

The researchers did not develop their own game but rather used some of the games that come prepackaged with the Wii balance board. 

The study included 27 participants and lasted 24 weeks. Before the study began, researchers collected brain images and posture data from all participants. They did this again after 12 weeks and then at the end of the study.

Researchers also split the participants into two groups. The first group, that had 13 participants, played the game for the first 12 weeks and then didn't for the next 12, while the other group with 14 participants didn't play the game for the first 12 weeks and then played it for the next 12. The study also took brain imaging and posture data from 15 healthy particpants for comparison.

After the 24 weeks, researchers found that the video game contributed to changes in the participants' cerebellar peduncles, but the changes did not last more than 12 weeks.

"The main findings of this study is that the microstructural properties of both superior cerebellar peduncles significantly changed after a 12-week intervention aimed at improving balance by using visual feedback training," the researchers explained in the paper.

Researchers said that the changes could be considered clinically relevant because they were correlated with improved standing balance detected when researchers examined the participant's posture after video game training.