Dance Dance Revolution can help multiple sclerosis sufferers improve their balance and cognitive function according to the initial findings of a new study.
Dance Dance Revolution can help multiple sclerosis patients improve their fitness level and decrease problems with balance. Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine are conducting a new study to see how DDR can ease some of MS sufferers’ symptoms and help them stay on their feet.
The new DDR study is based on the hypothesis that MS patients can improve their balance as well as cognitive function after participating in an eight-week DDR program. The researchers believe that participation in the study will help MS patients improve their performance on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT), a neuropsychological test measuring the rate and capacity of information processing as well as sustained and divided attention. The test is typically used as a cognitive measure in the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC).
Konami’s popular dance video game requires players to place their feet on arrows on a dance mat that correspond to arrows that they see on the screen. The game can become faster and more challenging, both physically and mentally, as the directions and arrows on the screen begin to move faster and become more complicated. The combination of dance, music, competition, and exercise makes the effort a fun one and motivates MS patients to keep working out and stick with the exercise program. Anne Kloos, assistant professor of clinical health and rehabilitation sciences at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, told Fox News, "We thought this game might motivate them, because it’s fun and entertaining and because the game gives a lot of feedback." The game gives positive feedback to players when they perform well, which encourages them to keep exercising.
Dance Dance Revolution and similar dance video games have shown to provide a variety of health benefits, from improvement in general health and overall fitness levels, and reduction of risks for various diseases related to unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles, to changing attitudes and behaviours. The game also works on the coordination between the players’ eyes and feet, as it asks you to follow a set of directions at different difficulty levels. This, among other things, is what makes it a good candidate for the OSU study. Ruchika Prakash, an assistant professor of psychology at the OSU, said, "Individuals with MS have a lot of balance issues and vertigo problems. There’s numbness in the extremities… And then there’s spasticity, or the stiffness of the muscles, as a result of which the movement of the joints becomes challenging, becomes restricted."
Dance Dance Revolution has already shown some promise with multiple sclerosis patients. Tracy Blackwell, an MS sufferer who was diagnosed with the illness at the age of 39, says that DDR has already helped her significantly. Blackwell, who used to work as a supervisor at the United States Postal System, had to retire because of her failing physical ability and extreme fatigue. "I couldn’t do anything," she said. "My left leg dragged, my left arm was almost useless, so it stopped me from living day to day." She took medications and daily injections, but her symptoms did not improve much and her quality of life continued to suffer.
Blackwell enrolled in the Dance Dance Revolution study at the OSU at her physician’s suggestion and she is already seeing a significant improvement in her condition. "Now, I’m on the infusion therapy where I just go once a month," she says. "Before I participated in the study, I’d say I walked maybe to the mailbox – and that’s not very far – and now I walk a half a mile every day, and I do [Dance Dance Revolution] every day."
Symptoms like fatigue and memory problems are common to MS patients, which is why, along with trying to determine how DDR may help ease their physical limitations, the researchers at the OSU are also trying to see if the workout can help improve the patients’ cognitive function.
Debbie Kegelmeyer, assistant professor of clinical health and rehabilitation sciences and one of the researchers, believes that the program used in the study can indeed potentially improve the patients’ overall cognitive function and problems with memory. "We believe this may work because of animal studies that have shown that exercise helps create new neurons in the area of the brain where memories are formed," she says.
Patients included in the DDR study have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, which is the most frequent form of MS, characterized by periods of declining neurologic function. The researchers are looking to study the link between physical exercise, cognitive functioning and changes in neural activation in MS patients and, in particular, the effect DDR has on neural and cognitive plasticity in MS sufferers. Research participants play DDR three times a week over a period of eight weeks and engage in increasingly difficult play of the dance game.
For more information about the study, visit the OSU website.
Source: Fox News