Researchers at Ohio State University originally developed Recovery Rapids – a simple, Microsoft Kinect-based kayak simulator – to provide cost-effective physical therapy for stroke victims. A recent grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will allow the team to explore options in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, as well.

Multiple sclerosis (often abbreviated to "MS") is a degenerative disease that damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal column. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide and manifests itself in numerous ways, including vision loss and complications in motor function. There is no known cure for MS.

In Recovery Rapids, patients control the direction of a kayak as it travels down a river, using the Microsoft Kinect to interact with items and the environment while dodging potential hazards like floating crates and other obstacles. The notion behind the game is to force the patient to use the limb affected with motor complications without the aid of their "good" limb – a form of rehabilitation known as constraint-induced (CI) movement therapy.

Working on the project are Lynne Gauthier, Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at OSU, Associate Professor Robert Crawfis of the Computer Science and Engineering department, and grad student David Maung. "CI therapy has been shown to be a promising motor rehabilitation for MS,” said Crawfis, “so we hope that our gamified version of it will be a viable in-home alternative for people with hand and arm weakness from MS.”

The Pilot Research Grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society awards $44,000 to teams pursuing cutting edge or untested methods of MS treatment. Ohio State researchers will put their grant toward clinical trials to test the efficacy of Recovery Rapids as a rehabilitative tool for MS patients.

To learn more about the OSU team's project and Recovery Rapids, click here. To find out more about multiple sclerosis and its effects on its 2.3 million sufferers worldwide, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website.

If you're interested in the notion of video games as rehabilitative medicine, check out this piece about a neuroscientist who wants to use games as life-prolonging medicine.

[Source: Ohio State University]

Our Take
It's always encouraging to see the application of video games extend outside of mere entertainment, and even better to know that some are actively using them with the intent of rehabilitating permanent diseases like MS. While working in my father's neurology office, I met more than one sufferer of the disease. It is a remarkably difficult disease to live with, no matter its severity, and motor treatment is one of only a few ways to alleviate the severity of some symptoms. The existence of cost-effective, easy-to-use options like Recovery Rapids is a good sign for the future of medicine as well as video games.