Bangor University computer games to research to help treat Parkinson’s disease

Research into how computer games stimulate the brain could be used to help treat Parkinson’s disease (BBC News, 2017).

The study looked at the effects of touch screen “spatial reasoning games” on the part of the brain used to control movement. Early research involving sixteen people with Parkinson’s disease showed it could help stimulate impaired areas of the brain and improve motor function.

The team, led by Bangor University, has received £33,000 for a second study. Researchers at Bangor University’s School of Psychology have been working with Parkinson’s disease experts at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) and the Walton Centre in Liverpool. The study required users to perform tasks like using mental imagery to rearrange shapes to fit a physical space.

The new funding, from the BCUHB Pathway to Portfolio Funding Award, will see sixty people with Parkinson’s disease take part in another study which will explore further benefits of computer gaming.

Dr Charles Leek, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the university, said their research hoped to get parts of the brain “working more efficiently”.

He said “These kinds of tests are incredibly simple and involve people making judgements about visual spatial relationships. They involve the brain doing quick calculations of the dimensions of an object from a different orientation and how it will fit into the space provided.”

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the nervous system which can cause muscle rigidity, tremor, poor balance and slow movement.

Claire Bale, head of research communications and engagement at Parkinson’s UK, said “So far, there is no conclusive evidence that brain stimulating computer programmes can be used as an effective non-drug therapy for people with Parkinson’s. But we are keen to see what potential there is by using emerging technologies, such as brain training, to improve symptoms of the condition.”

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